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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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.

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.

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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RELATED IDEAS

An individual's perception of control in a situation influences how they learn from their experiences.

This is a useful mechanism for teaching us about the world that unbiased learning cannot do. It could also explain delusional thinking, where it is difficult to sway someone from a false belief with contrary evidence

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IDEAS

Nietzsche believed successful marriages are possible when there is a good amount of existing friendship.

According to him, a woman's love has a built-in hatred towards that which is not loved, and both love and hate come together as a package.

Building Social Bonds

Gossip is a key social skill that helps ensure our healthy integration into human society. 

Gossiping with somebody is a way of bringing people closer within your social group, checking that they share your views, and bonding over shared positions and judgements. The people you gossip most with, therefore, are the ones with whom you're the closest.

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