Delusional thinking and cognitive disorder

Harvard University, USA.
Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science (Impact Factor: 2.43). 07/2005; 40(3):136-46. DOI: 10.1007/BF03159710
Source: PubMed


A hypothesis is presented regarding the genesis of paranoid delusion that attempts to take into account certain data. The data of interest are (a) the failure to find evidence of cognitive impairment in diagnosed paranoid patients, (b) the evidence of perceptual disorder as a primary and prior condition in the natural history of the clinical development of delusions and the empirical relationship of the perceptual disorder to presence of "thought disorder," (c) the failure to find evidence supporting universal psychodynamic patterns of etiology, (d) appearance of "delusional" phenomena in normal subjects in situations of deviant sensory experience, and (e) the reports of articulate patients writing of their experiences. This hypothesis suggests that there exists a group of patients who suffer from primary perceptual anomalies, fundamentally biological in nature although probably fluctuating with current stresses, and that these anomalies involve vivid and intense sensory input. These experiences demand explanation which the patient develops through the same cognitive mechanisms that are found in normal and scientific theory-building. As the data that are available to the patient are crucially different from those available to an observer, the latter judges the explanation to be bizarre and pathological. Being unable to check the validity of the patient's descriptions of his sensory experience the assumption is made that the patient is having the same experience as the observer but is defective in reality-testing and/or inferential thinking. As the evidence for the presence of perceptual disorder is stronger than the direct evidence for cognitive impairment, the hypothesis outlined here places central importance on the former. In brief, it is suggested that for many paranoid patients the delusion should be seen as the reaction of a normal, "sane" individual to abnormal but genuine perceptual experiences.

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    • "Requests for reprints should be sent to Rainer Reisenzein , Free University Berlin, 1000 Berlin 19, Ulmenallee 32, Federal Republic of Germany. 1979; Zanna & Cooper, 1976), attitude change (Cantor, Mody, & Zillmann, 1974; Mintz & Mills, 1971), and other diverse areas (e.g., London & Monello, 1974; Maher, 1974; O'Neal, 1971). The theory, however, has not remained without critics, and especially in recent years increasing doubts have been raised as to the adequacy of Schachter's formulation (e.g., Leventhal, 1980; Marshall &Zimbardo, 1979; Maslach, 1979). "
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    ABSTRACT: Several of the less clearly defined aspects of S. Schachter and J. Singer's (1962) cognition-arousal theory of emotion are clarified, and empirical evidence pertaining to 3 major deductions from the theory is reviewed. It is concluded that only 1 of these deductions, claiming that misattributed arousal from an extraneous source intensifies emotional reactions, is adequately supported by the data. Little support is found for the 2nd hypothesis, that arousal reduction leads to a reduction in the intensity of emotional state. The status of the 3rd hypothesis, that misattribution of emotionally induced arousal to a neutral source results in a reduction of emotionality, is considered equivocal because of plausible alternative interpretations of the pertinent findings. There is no convincing evidence for Schachter and Singer's claim that arousal is a necessary condition for an emotional state, nor for the suggestion that emotional states may result from a labeling of unexplained arousal. It is suggested that the role of arousal in emotion has been overstated and that the available data support at best a rather attenuated version of Schachter's theory––that arousal feedback can have an intensifying effect on emotional states––and that this arousal–emotion relationship is mediated, in part, by causal attributions regarding the source of arousal. (6 p ref)
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    ABSTRACT: The paper introduces the idea that the human brain may apply complex mathematical modules in order to process and understand the world. We speculate that the substrate of what appears outwardly as intuition, or prophetic power, may be a mathematical apparatus such as time-delay embedding. In this context, predictive accuracy may be the reflection of an appropriate choice of the embedding parameters. We further put this in the perspective of mental illness, and search for the possible differences between good intuition and delusive ideation. We speculate that the task at which delusional schizophrenic patients falter is not necessarily of perception, but rather of model selection. Failure of the psychotic patient to correctly choose the embedding parameters may readily lead to misinterpretation of an accurate perception through an altered reconstructed of the object perceived.
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    ABSTRACT: Previous research has suggested that there are multiple psychological processes underlying delusional thought. While it appears that cognitive biases in certain reasoning and attention processes are related to delusion-proneness, the influence of emotion on these processes is not well understood. The overall objective of this study was to investigate the effect of emotional content on performance on tasks thought to measure attentional bias, preferential recall, and probabilistic reasoning in individuals with schizophrenia and demographically matched controls. In order to account for level of delusion-proneness, participants also completed a multidimensional measure of delusional thought. It was hypothesized that individuals with schizophrenia would perform more poorly on both the emotional and neutral versions of these tasks compared to controls. It was also hypothesized that within each group, there would be a statistically significant emotion effect, indicated by a difference in performance on the emotional (compared to neutral) condition of each task. This emotion effect was expected to be larger in the schizophrenia group. Finally, it was hypothesized that the emotion effect would increase as the severity of delusional proneness increased for all participants, regardless of group. As hypothesized, the schizophrenia group performed more poorly on the tasks overall, though expected emotion effects were generally absent. There were no differences in the size of emotion effects between the groups on any of the cognitive tasks administered, and the emotion effect did not appear to increase as severity of delusion-proneness increased. Factors that may have contributed to this pattern of results are discussed. Implications of these findings on theoretical models of delusions and future directions for research in this area are also discussed.
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