What is a delusion? Epistemological dimensions

J Abnorm Psychol. 1999 Nov;108(4):687-94. doi: 10.1037//0021-843x.108.4.687.


Although the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) clearly indicates delusions have an epistemic dimension, it fails to accurately identify the epistemic properties of delusions. The authors explicate the regulative causes of belief revision for rational agents and argue that delusions are unresponsive to these. They argue that delusions are (a) protected beliefs made unfalsifiable either in principle or because the agent refuses to admit anything as a potential falsifier; (b) the protected belief is not typically considered a "properly basic" belief; (c) the belief is not of the variety of protected scientific beliefs; (d) in response to an apparent falsification, the subject posits not a simple, testable explanation for the inconsistency but one that is more complicated, less testable, and provides no new corroborations; (e) the subject has a strong emotional attachment to the belief; and (f) the belief is typically supported by (or originates from) trivial occurrences that are interpreted by the subject as highly unusual, significant, having personal reference, or some combination of these.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delusions / diagnosis*
  • Delusions / psychology
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Psychological Theory