30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011
Kapur’s aberrant salience
Psychosis is a mind-bending state in which people develop delusions and hallucinations as part of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Medically speaking, delusions are unfounded yet unshakeable beliefs that are not just a case of being mistaken — they can include states such as believing that your thoughts are being stolen with microwaves, or that secret agents are controlling your actions. Aberrant salience theory, developed by psychiatrist Shitij Kapur, aims to explain how reality starts breaking down in psychosis on the basis that affected people often show changes in the brain’s use of a chemical messenger called dopamine. Kapur argues that the neurochemical is involved in highlighting which things are ’motivationally important’. In other words, it works like the contrast control on a television, but instead of changing how sharply light and dark stand out from each other, it changes how ’salient’ or important things seem. For example, normally, if you’re hungry, food grabs your attention to a heightened degree. Aberrant salience theory says that problems with dopamine cause this system to go wrong, with the result that those affected start noticing irrelevant things and believe them to be incredibly important, leading to strange and compelling delusions that alter their behaviour.
In psychosis, the brain chemical dopamine is overactive causing affected people to perceive irrelevant things as important and attention-grabbing.
The risk of mental illness is not fully explained by what we know about brain chemicals and evidence suggests that a whole host of traits and experiences play a part — including a family history of mental illness, living environment, personal relationships, lifetime stress and even birth complications. Neuroscience is an important tool but we need to appreciate the whole person to best understand and support people who are mentally distressed.
WASON’S CONFIRMATION BIAS
LOFTUS’ FALSE MEMORIES
A CCTV camera seems to be pointing right at you — coincidence or conspiracy? Faulty brain chemistry can lead people to think the latter.