Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Are delusions biologically adaptive? Salvaging the doxastic shear pin

  • Aaron L. Mishara (a1) (a2) and Phil Corlett (a1) (a3)

In their target article, McKay & Dennett (M&D) conclude that only “positive illusions” are adaptive misbeliefs. Relying on overly strict conceptual schisms (deficit vs. motivational, functional vs. organic, perception vs. belief), they prematurely discount delusions as biologically adaptive. In contrast to their view that “motivation” plays a psychological but not a biological function in a two-factor model of the forming and maintenance of delusions, we propose a single impairment in prediction-error–driven (i.e., motivational) learning in three stages in which delusions play a biologically adaptive role.

Hide All
P. R. Corlett , C. D. Frith & P. C. Fletcher (2009a) From drugs to deprivation: A Bayesian framework for understanding models of psychosis. Psychopharmacology 206(4):515–30.

P. R. Corlett , G. D. Honey & P. C. Fletcher (2007) From prediction error to psychosis: Ketamine as a pharmacological model of delusions. Journal of Psychopharmacology 21(3):238–52.

P. R. Corlett , J. K. Krystal , J. R. Taylor & P. C. Fletcher (2009b) Why do delusions persist? Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 3. Available at:

N. D. Daw , Y. Niv & P. Dayan (2005) Uncertainty-based competition between prefrontal and dorsolateral striatal systems for behavioral control. Nature Neuroscience 8(12):1704–11.

D. Eisenhardt & R. Menzel (2007) Extinction learning, reconsolidation and the internal reinforcement hypothesis. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 87(2):167–73.

P. C. Fletcher & C. D. Frith (2009) Perceiving is believing: A Bayesian approach. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 10(1):4858.

J. M. Fuster (2006) The cognit: A network model of cortical representation. International Journal of Psychophysiology 60(2):125–32.

D. R. Hemsley & P. A. Garety (1986) The formation of maintenance of delusions: A Bayesian analysis. British Journal of Psychiatry 149(July):5156.

P. K. Hitchcott , J. J. Quinn & J. R. Taylor (2007) Bidirectional modulation of goal directed actions by prefrontal cortical dopamine. Cerebral Cortex 17(12):2820–27.

S. Kapur (2003) Psychosis as a state of aberrant salience: A framework linking biology, phenomenology, and pharmacology in schizophrenia. American Journal of Psychiatry 160(1):1323.

A. McGhie & J. Chapman (1961) Disorders of attention and perception in early schizophrenia. British Journal of Medical Psychology 34:103–16.

R. McKay , R. Langdon & M. Coltheart (2007a) Models of misbelief: Integrating motivational and deficit theories of delusions. Consciousness and Cognition 16:932–41.

F. Milton , V. K. Patwa & R. J. Hafner (1978) Confrontation vs. belief modification in persistently deluded patients. British Journal of Medical Psychology 51(2):127–30.

A. L. Mishara (2007a) Is minimal self preserved in schizophrenia? A subcomponents view. Consciousness and Cognition 16(3):715–21.

A. L. Mishara (2010) Klaus Conrad (1905–1961): Delusional mood, psychosis and beginning schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin 36(1):913.

P. J. Uhlhaas & A. L. Mishara (2007) Perceptual anomalies in schizophrenia: Integrating phenomenology and cognitive neuroscience. Schizophrenia Bulletin 33(1):142–56.

D. M. Wegner (2004) Précis of The illusion of conscious will. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (5):649–59; discussion 660–92.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 10
Total number of PDF views: 47 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 186 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.