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Beliefs have a social purpose. Does this explain delusions?

https://psyche.co/ideas/beliefs-have-a-social-purpose-does-this-explain-delusions

psyche.co

Beliefs have a social purpose. Does this explain delusions?
Beliefs have a social purpose. To understand delusions, let’s focus on why they’re so often about other people

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Delusional beliefs and madness

Delusional beliefs and madness
  • People with psychosis may believe the neighbours are poisoning them; they could believe colleagues have hired someone to kill them.
  • Psychiatrists define beliefs as delusions when they consider them to be irrational and unfounded.
  • French philosopher Michel Foucault defined 'madness' as the absence of reason or rational thought.
  • German-Swiss psychiatrist Karl Jaspers stated that delusions are incomprehensible beliefs that don't reflect the real world.
  • Today, The American Psychiatric Association stated delusions are beliefs that are clearly implausible and not understandable to same-culture peers.

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Delusional concerns tied to our social world

The focus on irrationality is missing the point. To label delusions as irrational means that all 'normal' cognition is rational, which is not true as our beliefs are disproportionately influenced by multiple factors.

A new theory suggests that we form delusions to help us understand and survive in our social environment. These processes allow us to live and cooperate with people by understanding their intentions.

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Why people form delusional beliefs

Beliefs are formed in the first place to enable us to survive in our social environment, to cooperate with each other, and mutually reflect and solve problems. However, beliefs differ across social groups. For example, beliefs about the risk levels of specific activities during the pandemic vary greatly, such as the wearing of masks.

When we consider the social role of beliefs, we can better understand how delusions take shape. A person that has been repeatedly threatened may be wary of people in the future, even if it seems irrational.

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Delusions and our social context

Delusions are often thought of as the extreme part of a belief. People suffering from delusions remain unchanged even in the face of contrary evidence. Their beliefs may become increasingly intense and disruptive.

Research shows the importance of understanding the social environment of a delusional personal: instead of dismissing delusions as irrational, consider the social conditions that contributed to their distressing beliefs.

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The Puzzle Of Human Perception

  • Psychophysics is an experimental branch of psychology that investigates the limits of human perception.
  • Humans are hardwired to be delusional about their actions and are extremely sensitive to how the world responds to whatever they do.
  • The key takeaway of this puzzle is that even though our beliefs may be false, they create a rational inference that may be needed in an uncertain world.