Schizophrenia is thought to be a disorder in which a person cannot tell real from imaginary. They perceive their internal monologue as being from another being. Scientists are trying to determine why.

The cohesiveness of consciousness is essential to our judgments about cause and effect—and, therefore, to our sense of self. In one particularly sneaky experiment, Eagleman and his team asked volunteers to press a button to make a light blink—with a slight delay. After 10 or so presses, people cottoned onto the delay and began to see the blink happen as soon as they pressed the button. Then the experimenters reduced the delay, and people reported that the blink happened before they pressed the button.

Eagleman conjectured that such causal reversals would explain schizophrenia. All of us have an internal monologue, which we safely attribute to ourselves; if we didn’t, we might think of it as an external voice. So Eagleman has begun to run the same button-blink experiment on people diagnosed with schizophrenia. He reported that changing the delay time did not cause them to change their assessment of cause and effect. “They just don’t adjust,” Eagleman said. “They don’t see the illusion. They’re temporally inflexible.” He ventured: “Maybe schizophrenia is fundamentally a disorder of time perception.” If so, it suggests new therapies to cajole the brains of schizophrenic patients into recalibrating their sense of timing. –Scientific American

Writing Prompt: Write a scene where a character accepts his internal monologue as the voice of another being.

Journaling Prompt: Write about an internal monologue you have experienced.

Art Prompt: Cause and effect
Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about how our internal monologue creates our feelings.

Photo Credit: Fey Ilyas on Flickr

2 Responses to Prompt #122 Cause and Effect

  1. We are finding, more and more, that mental illnesses are caused by physical things: difference in brain formation, hormone levels, etc. So people who are mentally ill are no more to blame than somebody with a bad hip or nearsighted is “to blame,” however, just like there are ways to work around a bad hip or eyesight, we need to continue to look for ways to compensate for whatever isn’t quite right in the brain.
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  2. Liz says:

    I’m fascinated by the ideas that researchers come up with to test. Who would have thought the perception of time delay would be a factor? Brilliant!

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