"Sleights of mind": Delusions and self-deception

Ryan McKay, Robyn Langdon, Max Coltheart

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Two different modes of theorizing about delusions are explored. On the one hand is the motivational approach, which regards delusions as serving a defensive, palliative, even potentially adaptive function. On the other hand is the cognitive deficit approach, which conceptualises delusions as explicitly pathological, involving abnormalities in ordinary cognitive processes. The former approach, prominently exemplified by the psychoanalytic tradition, was predominant historically, but has been challenged in recent years by the latter. We argue that pertinent grievances against psychoanalytic theory notwithstanding, the psychodynamic notion that motivation has access to the mechanisms of belief formation is of potentially crucial theoretical utility. A variety of possible syntheses of the two theoretical modes are therefore explored, in the belief that the most comprehensive account of delusions will involve a theoretical unification of both styles of explanation. Along the way an attempt is made to locate the notions delusion and self-deception in a shared theoretical space.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDelusion and Self-Deception: Affective and Motivational Influences on Belief Formation
EditorsTim Bayne, Jordi Fernandez
Place of PublicationHove
PublisherPsychology Press
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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