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Symposium 3

 

Sunday June 22, 10:30AM-12:30PM at Alexander Hall

Delusions

Since time immemorial, Jaspers (1963[1913]) argued, delusions have been considered the cardinal signs of madness. Yet the nature of these apparent pathologies of misbelief continues to resist satisfactory definition and explanation. In this symposium we present psychological and philosophical approaches to the study of delusions and discuss implications concerning the functional role of consciousness. In order to better understand the unwarranted subjective conviction with which delusional people profess their oft-times fantastic beliefs we consider the interaction of conscious and unconscious processes. In particular, the contribution of discrepant covert and overt self-knowledge to the formation of delusions is discussed with reference to the associated constructs of (non-pathological) defense and self-deception. We also review the current debate concerning the role of conscious perceptual experience in the generation of delusions with reference to relevant patient data.

Jaspers, K. 1963[1913]. General psychopathology. Translated J. Hoenig and M. W. Hamilton. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

 

Chair: Robyn Langdon
Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science
Macquarie University
AUSTRALIA
Email: rlangdon@maccs.mq.edu.au
Website: http://www.maccs.mq.edu.au/members/profile.htm?memberID=60

 

Are Delusions Pathologies of Consciousness?

Tim Bayne
Faculty of Philosophy
The University of Oxford
UK
Email: tim.bayne@gmail.com
Website: http://www.philosophy.ox.ac.uk/members/timothy_bayne

On the face of things, delusions seem to be pathologies of consciousness: the delusional patient has a belief which, from his or her own perspective, ought to be rejected, and one of the functions of consciousness is to reject implausible candidates for belief. I examine this proposal in light of accounts of delusions on the one hand and in light of accounts of the functions of consciousness on the other. I argue that despite its intuitive appeal, there is little firm reason to believe that delusions are pathologies of consciousness. Nonetheless, there are important lessons to be learned about the functional role of consciousness by asking whether delusions might qualify as pathologies of consciousness.
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Conscious and Unconscious Processes in Persecutory Delusions - Evidence for a Defense Account

Ryan McKay
Institute for Empirical Research in Economics
University of Zurich
Switzerland
Email: ryantmckay@mac.com
Website: http://homepage.mac.com/ryantmckay/
Of all delusional themes, delusions of persecution are the most commonly observed clinically and the most vigorously researched empirically. Bentall and colleagues (Bentall & Kaney, 1996; Kinderman & Bentall, 1996, 1997) claim that persecutory delusions are constructed defensively, for the maintenance of self-esteem. A central prediction of their model is that paranoid individuals will demonstrate normal or high self-esteem on overt measures, whereas covert measures will reveal hidden feelings of low self-esteem. Although it is a rather formidable methodological challenge to elicit implicit self-esteem, there have been a number of efforts to empirically test this prediction. I will review these studies, focusing in particular on two recent experiments (McKay, Langdon, & Coltheart, 2007; Moritz, Werner, & von Collani, in press) that have employed a novel and highly influential methodology for eliciting implicit effects, the Implicit Association Test (IAT; Greenwald, McGhee & Schwartz, 1998).
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The Misidentification Delusions
Ian Gold
Canada Research Chair in Philosophy & Psychiatry
McGill University
CANADA
Email: ian.gold@mcgill.ca
Website: http://www.mcgill.ca/tcpsych/faculty/#GOLD

The misidentification delusions, once thought rare, are now known to occur frequently in dementia. Although Ellis and Youngˇ¦s (1990) account of one of these delusions ˇV the Capgras delusion ˇV is perhaps the best model of any delusion, we still understand very little about the cognitive processes implicated in the misidentification delusions or their neural substrates. In this paper I make some suggestions about the neurobiology of the misidentification delusions and their cognitive origins.
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The Role of Conscious Experience Differentiates between Received and Reflective Delusions
Robyn Langdon
Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science
Macquarie University
AUSTRALIA
Email: rlangdon@maccs.mq.edu.au
Website: http://www.maccs.mq.edu.au/members/profile.htm?memberID=60
Maher conceived of delusions as rational explanations of aberrant experience. Two-factor theorists started with and departed from Maher to argue for an additional impairment of belief formation. This was necessary, it was argued, to account for the uncritical adoption of an implausible belief. Maherˇ¦s thinking nevertheless continues to impact upon theorizing about the additional impairment of belief evaluation. This is because of the intuitive appeal of his explanationist account of delusion formation. This explanationist account runs into difficulties, however, with explaining the incorrigibility of delusions. The expression, or endorsement, approach fares better and conceives instead of perceptual experience as delivering the delusional content directly to consciousness as the naturally compelling mis-perceived reality. Neither approach, I suggest, satisfactorily accounts for all delusions. I argue instead for different classes of delusion - received versus reflective ˇV and illustrate with reference to two delusional patients.
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