Wednesday 19 June 2019

The Two-factor Theory of Delusions: A reply to Amanda Barnier

This post is by Philip Corlett who is currently engaging in a debate with Ryan McKay on this blog about the two-factor theory of delusions (see Phil's and Ryan's previous posts). Here Phil replies to Amanda Barnier's comment.

I am grateful to Amanda for her contributions, to the blog exchange and to the literature on delusions. I am of course aware of her hypnosis work – having spent time at Macquarie and even been hypnotized (I am highly hypnotizable, which is perhaps too much to share here).

My article and post were provocative and perhaps too confrontational. Having spent time at the Belief Formation Program Table, I understand how exciting and generative it can be. My word choice was perhaps a little too strong. 'Adherents' may have been better. I see that 'acolytes' may be particularly insulting to practicing scientists.

My article was about the basic foundational data and arguments of two-factor theory. Whilst Amanda is right to criticize my word choices, and to chastise me for not acknowledging Robyn Langdon, do either of those points detract from my case? To presage next week’s response to Ryan, if 2-F theorists knew about the contents of my article; the broader SCR deficits and right DLPFC lesions in the control cases, why weren’t they mentioned in the many papers on 2-F theory? Did they come up around the big table? They did not when I sat at the table when I visited.

I think some of my vitriol comes from having sat at that very table and shared my ideas and data, only to have them rather harshly derided in print, without forewarning or right to prompt reply. I did eventually get to respond. If we are calling the tone police, I think it apt to return to the scene of the original crime. Squabbling aside, my use of the terms acolyte and magical properties, reflect a dissatisfaction in the way exchanges with 2-F theorists often evolve. If the stall is set out such that only one style of explaining the data, and certain data, are on the table, it is very difficult to disagree.

One must challenge the explanation, and the data, as I did in my article and post.

I could and perhaps should have done so in a less ad hominem way. But it wasn’t all ad hominem. Does Amanda disagree that the imprecise SCR response or the right DLPFC lesions of the VMPFC cases are a problem? Did the big table ever test the 2-F predictions about SCR in the other monothematic delusions? And what of modularity – if it doesn’t obtain, what will be the fate of 2-F? I will unpack these ideas further next week, but did not want to leave Amanda’s important post unanswered.

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