• rei
    8
    I am in the process of writing an essay on the impairment of theory of mind in schizophrenic patients, and the connections it has to the personal subpersonal divide. I was advised to look at the upshots this empirical evidence may suggest about the divide itself, but I am unsure about which stance I can take in order to defend a solid thesis. Should I talk about how the divide is necessary in and of itself, or try to posit that the personal cannot exist without the subpersonal (ie their relationship is causal)? Any suggestions?

    Theory of Mind is a psychological term that means "understanding that others hold beliefs separate from one's own."
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Impairment of theory of mind? Are you suggesting that schizophrenic patients have theories of mind, and those theories are impaired by their schizophrenia? That's what "impairment of theory of mind in schizophrenic patients" suggests.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Aside from that, I've never been convinced that the personal/subpersonal distinction makes much sense.
  • rei
    8
    Yes! Patients are either unable to possess a ToM, or have deficits to some degree (they either can't understand that others have separate beliefs, or assume that others have access to their intentions etc.). Also, I'm curious as to why you don't think the personl/subpersonal distinction makes sense.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    Why would we be claiming that schizophrenic patients tend to have theories of mind?
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    this empirical evidencerei

    I assume you are talking about things like intrusive thoughts, interpreted as 'voices', perhaps being 'beamed into their heads', or conversely that their thoughts are not private, but emanate and are read by others who are thus 'spying ' on them?

    These are theories of mind, are they not? But I would suggest that they are not particularly impaired theories, but interpretations of impaired experiences. That is, they are attempts to explain certain experiences that pervade their lives.

    You could perhaps make a comparison with Body Integrity Identity Disorder. One would not likely want to talk about their ' impaired theory of body' but their experience of some part of their body as 'other'. One could likewise talk of the schizophrenic as experiencing part of their mind as 'other'. Thus it would be more an impairment of identity than of theory of mind.
  • rei
    8
    I'm sorry I don't really know what you mean, I'm probably confusing myself :sweat: I wouldn't claim that they have ToM, since the empirical evidence says otherwise, and would like to talk about what this lack of regular functioning ToM suggests?
  • tim wood
    1.3k
    I'm with the Terrapin. A theory is a piece of intellection, an idea that says something about something. If it is a term of art that means something else, please educate me.
  • rei
    8
    So are you saying that it doesn't make sense or is unnecessary to use "theory of mind" and that I should instead say patients are unable to understand that others are able to have separate mental states/hold separate beliefs?
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    One of the findings of Rosenhan (1973) which deserves mention is that although the staff did not detect the sanity of the subjects in any case, the patients often did.

    None of the pseudo patients was detected and all but one were admitted with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and were eventually discharged with a diagnosis of 'schizophrenia in remission' This diagnosis was made without one clear symptom of this disorder. They remained in hospital for 7 to 52 days (average 19 days), Visitors to the pseudo patients observed ‘no serious behavioural consequences'. Although they were not detected by the staff, many of the other patients suspected their sanity (35 out of the 118 patients voiced their suspicions). Some patients voiced their suspicions very vigorously for example ‘You’re not crazy. You’re a journalist, or a professor. You’re checking up on the hospital’.

    This seems to suggest that schizophrenics have a rather better theory of mind than the professionals, at least in the bad old days.
  • rei
    8
    Yes, that was what I was trying to get at with "empirical evidence." Also, I find what you say to be very interesting! I'd like to add that while some schizophrenics experience this feeling of their mind being 'other' (the author of the paper I'm reading at the moment labels it hyper-theory of mind), others are unable to have ToM at all.

    Also, what is your take on what this suggests about the personal/subpersonal divide (If there are any possible connections to be made)?
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    would like to talk about what this lack of regular functioning ToM suggests?rei

    You could perhaps make a comparison with Body Integrity Identity Disorder. One would not likely want to talk about their ' impaired theory of body' but their experience of some part of their body as 'other'. One could likewise talk of the schizophrenic as experiencing part of their mind as 'other'. Thus it would be more an impairment of identity than of theory of mind.unenlightened

    I agree with @unenlightened. Schizophrenia makes more sense at this general level of impairment. A self~world distinction is more basic than the self~other selves distinction. So ToM capabilities rely on the more general ability to form those kinds of psychic boundaries. And that is what is impaired.

    The whole ToM bandwagon was always pretty hokey. It arose more from the need of cognitive scientists to locate the "module" that made humans distinctively self-conscious. So big hopes were placed on a small thing. ToM was going to be "the big secret" explaining why we feel aware.

    Thus any cite of ToM becomes a red flag. It betrays an agenda.

    Of course - as social primates evolved to have the large brains necessary for empathy and complex models of social relations - we certainly do have a natural capacity for understanding that other minds have their own point of view. We conceptualise others as social actors along with ourselves.

    But in neuroanatomical terms, this isn't some special module. It is just more cortical/voluntary control over the existing limbic structures. It is an expansion of cortical plasticity which allows more sophisticated modelling and planning to constrain emotional behaviour.

    And it is that kind of executive control complexity that gets compromised in schizophrenia. If ToM features as a symptom, it is because social regulation is what folk get most judged on. We are collectively sensitive to it being even slightly off. If that same person is having all sorts of weird sensory issues and feelings of depersonalisation, we can afford to ignore it to the degree it has no impact on the smooth workings of society.
  • apokrisis
    4.5k
    Also, what is your take on what this suggests about the personal/subpersonal divide (If there are any possible connections to be made)?rei

    Again, to me, this is just cogsci types talking past the social psychology. If you think that the brain is divided into a rational part and an emotional part, then this is the kind of explanatory construct you arrive at.

    As if humans evolved to be logical!

    From a social psychology perspective, we would start by recognising the human mind is a culturally evolving thing. Language opened the door to a narrative structuring of our thoughts and feelings. That was a totally new habit of self-regulation, which is its own story.

    And then when it comes to the biological bit of the personal/subpersonal story, there is a second big difference that comes into play - the distinction between attentional/voluntary behaviour and habitual/automatic behaviour. You get two distinct levels of processing that are in "opposition" - or rather, which functionally divide the world into that which we already know and don't need to think about, and that which is novel and needs some kind of pause to consider.

    So the personal/subpersonal divide collapses at least two critical distinctions into the one. Cogsci generally assumed that human consciousness was some kind of biological phenomenon. And assumed that rational thought was the big step up from emotional reactions.

    Again, if you start out from the wrong worldview, you will come out with dumb theoretical constructs. And cogsci - at its philosophy of mind end - just knew bugger all about either the sociology or neurobiology of the thing it was meant to be talking about.

    This doesn't apply to its early greats, like Ulric Neisser, of course. But it did apply to the computer scientists and philosophers who were the hangers-on. And it did eventually infect the medically-minded neuroscience community too - as doctors likewise have a culture of treating bodies as machines.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    what is your take on what this suggests about the personal/subpersonal divide (If there are any possible connections to be made)?rei

    I'm having to do my homework on that, and I'm doing it here. I might get back to you tomorrow.
  • rei
    8
    Wow, thank you so much for the resource and for taking time out of your day to help me. I truly appreciate it!
  • csalisbury
    1.4k
    'theory of mind,' as rei is clearly using the term, doesn't refer to a generic theory. its a pretty well-known psychological term with a precise meaning.
  • rei
    8
    I was wondering if whether or not they understood what I meant but assumed I was just misunderstanding :lol: it all makes sense now.
  • Terrapin Station
    5.2k
    I'm sorry I don't really know what you mean, I'm probably confusing myself :sweat: I wouldn't claim that they have ToM, since the empirical evidence says otherwise, and would like to talk about what this lack of regular functioning ToM suggests?rei

    That was the point I'm making. Grammatically, "impairment of theory of mind in schizophrenic patients" suggests that we're talking about the theories of mind that schizophrenic patients have. And specfically, we're talking about the theories of mind that schizophrenic patients have being impaired.

    What you'd want to say instead is something like, "Schizophrenic patients: Implications for the subpersonal divide"
  • Noah Te Stroete
    257
    I suggest writing the body of your paper first, going where logic dictates, and then you will know your thesis.
  • Wallows
    6.2k
    As a formerly diagnosed schizophrenic, (now that diagnosis has changed to psychotic disorder, although I have a tendency to become paranoid often), I have encountered readings on the subject of a social deficiency, flat affect, and reduced grey matter in the prefrontal cortex. My experience has been mostly oriented at strengthening my boundaries of perception. I mean to say by this in the manner of not getting into another person's head and what they think about me, which all too often occurs. It's difficult to shut out a mental image of a person as it is forming on the go during a conversation or by observing them.

    Anyway, ToM sounds like a normative concept derived from what 'normal' people tend to think and interact with other people. It's confusing to me to propose a ToM on top of an already disorganized mind. It seems redundant to say that the ToM of a schizophrenic is different than the ToM of a normal person. Perhaps it simply means that the schizophrenic processes input differently than a normal person, which sounds about right to me.

    Would you be able to expand on this concept, @rei?
  • Wallows
    6.2k
    Expanding on the ToM of a schizophrenic, I can say that schizophrenics have a strong tendency towards magical thinking and overdetermination of events. There's also a childish aspect of schizophrenia. Namely, (from what I've read), when psychosis occurs there's irreparable damage to the formation of one's identity. Often schizophrenics (if they're not extremely paranoid) display childish traits of immaturity. This is manifest in their inability to look after themselves.

    Anyway, the ToM of a paranoid schizophrenic often resorts to very simplistic explanations (beliefs) for their surroundings and behaviour. These delusions of parasitosis or magical thinking are shortcuts for interpreting distressful thoughts. CBT would call these thoughts cognitive distortions on steroids.

    So, basically, I would tend to want to analyze the rationale of delusions for a schizophrenic if you want to address their deficit in forming an accurate ToM about other people.
  • BrianW
    481


    Have children under, say 9 or 10 yrs, formed a proper ToM?

    The reason I'm asking is because I thought part of the symptoms of most mental disorders were states like paranoia or psychosis reflected in behaviours akin to those witnessed in children, as stated by @Wallows. For example, children are likely to believe that ghosts from a horror movie are likely to attack them too. They have ideas like having the lights on or having someone else in a room would discourage the ghosts. For any reasonable adult, such notions often beg the question.
    So, I'm thinking that instead of a personal/sub-personal divide, perhaps a rigid/fluid divide. Perhaps the mental states of schizophrenics have become as fluid as children's often are and have lost the rigidity which adheres to reason or determines the persona to be a distinct set of characters.
    Perhaps the mental disorder affects the part which forms or adheres to ToM... ?
  • Pattern-chaser
    629
    I am in the process of writing an essay on the impairment of theory of mind in schizophrenic patients, and the connections it has to the personal subpersonal divide. I was advised to look at the upshots this empirical evidence may suggest about the divide itself, but I am unsure about which stance I can take in order to defend a solid thesis. Should I talk about how the divide is necessary in and of itself, or try to posit that the personal cannot exist without the subpersonal (ie their relationship is causal)? Any suggestions?rei

    I'm not sure if this is any help:

    In the autistic community, much is said of non-autistic people waxing lyrical about autism. They never consult with autistic people. So what can they really know or learn from texts? Perhaps this also applies to patients with bipolar disorder too? In which case, you could talk to patients, and find out from them what you want to know? :chin:
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment