Explaining delusions: a cognitive perspective

Trends Cogn Sci. 2006 May;10(5):219-26. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2006.03.004.


There is now considerable evidence for reasoning, attention, metacognition and attribution biases in delusional patients. Recently, these findings have been incorporated into a number of cognitive models that aim to explain delusion formation, maintenance and content. Although delusions are commonly conceptualized as beliefs, not all models make reference to models of normal belief formation. This review considers those models that explain delusions as a breakdown of normal belief formation (belief-positive models), approaches that explain the pathology only (belief-negative models) and approaches that view delusions as one end of a distribution of anomalous mental phenomena (the continuum view). A cognitive theory that includes the 'pragmatic pathology' of delusions will be able to address both the phenomenology and the treatment of delusion-related distress.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Culture
  • Delusions / epidemiology*
  • Delusions / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Problem Solving