Tuesday, 19 May 2015

DISORDERS - Explanations of Schizophrenia


The behaviourist perspective might be considered one of the least effective explanations for schizophrenia. The idea that people learn hallucinations and delusions is pretty outrageous!

However, there has been research to suggest that schizophrenic symptoms can be unlearned, therefore it is reasonable to suggest they they could also be learned. The behaviourist perspective explains that schizophrenia is learned and is the result of the environment; particularly, schizophrenia is the result of poor learning experiences. Liberman argued that positive reinforcements were important; lacking positive reinforcement for social skills and activities means that these social skills are not learned. It is therefore argued that the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia can be learned.

Liberman - Assessment of social skills in schizophrenia:

Method: Review of methods to assessing the problems that schizophrenic patients have with social skills, which results in a lack of social reinforcers.

Participants: Patients with schizophrenia

Procedure: The review article identified key features of social skills that were related to patients with schizophrenia.

Findings: Schizophrenic patients lack appropriate social learning from their past experiences. Therefore 'normal' social skills such as chatting about the weekend are not positively reinforced. Being institutionalised in a mental health hospital can often lead to a loss of social skills. This is because patients become so reliant of the routines and lifestyle of the institution, that it becomes normalised to them. They know nothing else. In addition, the excessive anxiety that they feel leads to schizophrenics avoiding social contact.

Conclusions: It is concluded that schizophrenic patients lack social skills that prevent them from functioning normally. Schizophrenics lack the opportunity to experience social skills ans this then leads to a lack of positive reinforcement (e.g. rewards such as friendship, laughter, closeness). This ultimately creates abnormal behaviour, as 'normal' behaviour has not been reinforced enough to have a positive effect.


This is the theory that schizophrenia is passed on genetically. But surely this theory id far too simplistic?

Gottesman and Shields: A review of genetic causes of schizophrenia

Method: A review of twin studies and adoption studies into schizophrenia.

Sample: In total there was 711 in the adoption studies (these participants were not twins!), 210 pairs of identical twins, and 319 pairs of non-identical twins.

The incidence of schizophrenia in adopted children was calculated by working out the likelihood of schizophrenia developing when the child was brought up by non-schizophrenic parents, but had biological parents with schizophrenia. They also looked at the likelihood of schizophrenia developing in normal children who were brought up by non-biological schizophrenic parents.
(I know what you're thinking. How can earth did they get away with this?) 

The twin studies were calculated by working out how often both twins were diagnosed with schizophrenia in both identical and non-identical twins.

In all of the adoption studies, the children who had biological schizophrenic parents and were brought up by normal adopted parents had an increased chance of schizophrenia.

Whereas normal children who were brought up by schizophrenic parents showed little evidence of schizophrenia.

The twin studies showed that if one identical twin had schizophrenia, then there was a 58% chance the other twin would have schizophrenia.

When one non-identical twin had schizophrenia, there was a 12% chance that the other twin would have schizophrenia.

This study provides strong support to the nature side of the nature/nurture debate. However, with percentages of less than 100% it is clear that the environment does play some role in explaining schizophrenia. There is also confusion as to whether one or many genes are responsible for schizophrenia. Further research is needed.


This theory is the idea that people with schizophrenia have a broken perception of how information is processed. Therefore, although some of their thoughts maybe bizarre to us, but to the schizophrenic patient, it seems completely logical.

Maher – delusional thinking and perceptual disorder

This theory believes that errors in cognitive processes can explain delusions in people with schizophrenia. Every day we develop logical explanations for things that happen. We call these schemas.

A schema is a cognitive framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. For example a schema to recognise a bird is that all birds have wings. However, what happens with people who have schizophrenia is that they believe their schemas are logical but in fact they are not. The delusional person is actually experiencing distorted information and this demands an explanation. This explanation is then developed into a distorted schema. This schema is then applied wrongly and produces delusional behaviours.

For example:
A person with schizophrenia is sitting on a bus and sees someone in a suit looking at them.
They may think that the person in the suit is spying on them.
If someone is staring at me it means that they know something about me.
If someone wants to know something about me, it must be something I did in the past.
Maybe they know that I’m really good at solving puzzles and want me to help save the world,             maybe they know about that time when I didn't pay all my taxes.
That must mean they are trying to kidnap me!

We all need to have a logical explanation for things that happen. But in the case of someone with schizophrenia, the sensory input is impaired in some way. This leads the person to hold beliefs that a based on distorted information available to that person. Therefore, someone with schizophrenia, genuinely believe that the schemas that they have developed are completely logical and rational.

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