Psychotic Experiences and Overhasty Inferences Are Related to Maladaptive Learning

PLoS Comput Biol. 2017 Jan 20;13(1):e1005328. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005328. eCollection 2017 Jan.


Theoretical accounts suggest that an alteration in the brain's learning mechanisms might lead to overhasty inferences, resulting in psychotic symptoms. Here, we sought to elucidate the suggested link between maladaptive learning and psychosis. Ninety-eight healthy individuals with varying degrees of delusional ideation and hallucinatory experiences performed a probabilistic reasoning task that allowed us to quantify overhasty inferences. Replicating previous results, we found a relationship between psychotic experiences and overhasty inferences during probabilistic reasoning. Computational modelling revealed that the behavioral data was best explained by a novel computational learning model that formalizes the adaptiveness of learning by a non-linear distortion of prediction error processing, where an increased non-linearity implies a growing resilience against learning from surprising and thus unreliable information (large prediction errors). Most importantly, a decreased adaptiveness of learning predicted delusional ideation and hallucinatory experiences. Our current findings provide a formal description of the computational mechanisms underlying overhasty inferences, thereby empirically substantiating theories that link psychosis to maladaptive learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Computational Biology
  • Female
  • Hallucinations / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Psychotic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

This project was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the framework of the e:Med research and funding concept (01ZX1404A to KS). KS is participant in the Charité Clinical Scientist Program funded by the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Berlin Institute of Health. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.