Psychological Explanations of Schizophrenia

By Rita Teixeira 

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Psychological Explanations of Schizophrenia
Family Systems Theory: Individuals cannot be understood in isolation, but rather as a part of a family system of
interconnected individuals
Double-bind Hypothesis: (child receives two conflicting messages)
Bateson (1956): SZ might be a result of being caught in double-bind situations
The child receives two conflicting messages
They may develop paranoia - always looking for hidden messages
They may begin acting inappropriately to emotional situations
Berger (1965): found that SZs reported a higher recall of double-blind statements by their mothers than a control
However, the participants have SZ which may influence their recall
Evidence is retrospective and therefore data may be bias and lack validity
Hall and Levin (1980): analysed data from previous studies and found no difference between families with and
without a SZ family member in the number of double-binds recalled
Expressed Emotion:
High levels of expressed emotion within a family is strongly linked to SZ
o This refers to a pattern of criticism and hostility of communication within a family
The negative emotional climate stresses the person with SZ beyond their coping abilities, triggering a SZ
Prospective Studies: Monitor children over a period of years to see who developed SZ
Marcus (1987): followed 'high risk' children who had a parent with SZ
Findings: High risk children who went on to develop SZ were more likely to come from families characterised by
negative relationships
Among the high risk group, none of those who received 'good parenting' went on to develop SZ
o This shows that family environment play a role in the onset of SZ in high risk groups
Cognitive Explanations: SZ - faulty attention system
People with SZ cannot distinguish whether their thoughts originate from within themselves or from their
external environment
2 Levels of Processing:
Conscious - takes place in full awareness
Pre-Conscious - Happens without awareness
o Most people have a filter between these two levels of conscious
o Most of the complex information processing goes below the conscious level of awareness - in SZ this
filter breaks down
Information from the preconscious arrives at the conscious where it is misinterpreted as having arrived from
an external source - (this explains delusions)

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People with SZ may also wrongly interpret internal preconscious non-speech sounds as speech which may
seep into consciousness which is then experienced as voices - (this explains hallucinations)
Because there is a problem with attention, SZs have a difficulty focusing on anything for a period of time,
gives impressions of disordered thought
Frith (1992): The faulty filter is due to the disruption of neural pathways connecting the hippocampus to the
prefrontal cortex, which is linked to the faulty regulation of dopamine in this part of…read more


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