Schizophrenia is characterised by difficulty understanding the thoughts and intentions of other people. Misunderstandings could lead people to attribute hostility to others’ actions. Theories suggest that we use our autobiographical memories to inform our understanding of other people but no study has examined the relation between memory and hostile attributions in schizophrenia. People with (n = 42) and without (n = 34) schizophrenia diagnoses completed The Ambiguous Intentions and Hostility Questionnaire (AIHQ) to assess their tendency to attribute hostility to other people’s actions and the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT) to assess their ability to recall specific positive and negative autobiographical memories. In linear regressions the interaction between diagnostic group and the proportion of specific negative memories participants retrieved explained significant variance in each AIHQ index. Follow-up correlation analyses showed that participants with schizophrenia who retrieved more negative memories also attributed greater hostility to other people’s actions (r = 0.47) and reported that they would respond with greater aggression (r = 0.59). These correlations were in the opposite direction for controls. People with schizophrenia may use their memories for negative past events to understand the actions and intentions of other people, leading to attributions of hostility for otherwise benign actions.
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