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The Capgras delusion: an integrated approach

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posted on 2022-03-29, 00:35 authored by Neralie Diane Wise
Delusions are studied in two different philosophical traditions: the continental or phenomenological tradition and the Anglo-American or analytic tradition. This thesis argues that the most plausible account of monothematic delusions ultimately incorporates valuable insights from both. It offers a new two-factor account of the Capgras delusion in which the characterisation of each factor reflects insights from the two traditions. I argue that the first factor is a delay in face encoding, which causes the face to be classified 'unknown', thus creating a conflict when the person's identity is accessed. I argue that this conflict is resolved by an application of the 'impostor' concept, which is an interpretation of the face in context, and further, that this concept is primarily developed through acquaintance with fiction. Applying a concept from fiction to reality creates cross-world conflict that cannot be resolved in the normal way. Consequently, the system that monitors conflicts is decoupled from executive control to allow the impostor attribution to pass unchallenged. The decoupling constitutes the second factor. I argue that the decoupling, which is a normal process that allows engagement with imaginative worlds, is brought to bear on an abnormal situation. This two-factor account is supported by neuroimaging data from investigations into conflict monitoring and executive control, and investigation of the hypnotic condition. In conclusion, I will suggest how the model presented could be applied to several other monothematic delusions.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- 1. Phenomenology and delusions -- 2. Brendan Maher -- 3. Two-factor accounts -- 4. One-factor accounts -- 5. Two contentious issues -- 6. The Capgras delusion -- 7. Meaning and the Capgras delusion -- 8. Alternative realities and delusions -- 9. Explaining unusual characteristics -- 10. The Capgras delusion -- 11. Further applications -- Summary and conclusion.


August 2012 Bibliography: pages 251-279

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of Philosophy

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Peter Menzies

Additional Supervisor 1

Mitch Parsell


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Neralie Diane Wise 2013.




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