Delusions as epistemic hypervigilance

Ryan McKay, Hugo Mercier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Delusions are distressing and disabling symptoms of various clinical disorders. Delusions are associated with an aberrant and apparently contradictory treatment of evidence, characterized by both excessive credulity (adopting unusual beliefs on minimal evidence) and excessive rigidity (holding steadfast to these beliefs in the face of strong counterevidence). Here we attempt to make sense of this contradiction by considering the literature on epistemic vigilance. Although there is little evolutionary advantage to scrutinizing the evidence our senses provide, it pays to be vigilant toward ostensive evidence—information communicated by others. This asymmetry is generally adaptive, but in deluded individuals the scales tip too far in the direction of the sensory and perceptual, producing an apparently paradoxical combination of credulity (with respect to one’s own perception) and skepticism (with respect to the testimony of others).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125–130
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number2
Early online date8 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

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