Schizophrenia - Psychological explanations

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Schizophrenia is a learnt behaviour caused by the reinforcement of abnormal behaviour. Abnormal behaviour may be reinforced by the attention it brings.

The reward may also come in the form of the persons 'inner world', with it being rewarding because it provides an escape from real-world pressures.


Token economy (where schizophrenics are rewarded with tokens for showing good behaviours) has generally been successful, supporting a behavioural component to schizophrenia.

Tarrier et al (1998) found that schizophrenic's receiving behavioural intervention treatment had lower levels of relapse than those receiving other treatments.


Doesn't explain why many schizophrenics display similar symptoms without having witnessed such behaviour - how would they have all learnt to do the same thing?

It usually occurs in late adolescence or early adulthood, and rarely in children. Since children do the most learning it seems strange that they don't often develop the illness. It may occur in adolescence due to pressures such as exams pushing them into their 'inner-world'.




Freud claimed that schizophrenia could be caused by overwhelming anxiety, stating that it's a defence mechanism involving regression into an early stage of development.


There isn't any research to support this theory.


Psychoanalysis isn't an effective treatment for schizophrenia suggesting that the Psychodynamic theory is inaccurate. 


There isn't any real basis for this theory.


Faulty Information Processes


Schizophrenia is caused by maladaptive (faulty) thinking, which is caused by faulty information processing.

Frith (1992) suggested that positive symptoms are caused by problems with metarepresentation, where there's an inability to distinguish external speech from internal thoughts. He also proposed that negative symptoms are caused by a failure to distinguish between concious, intended behaviours, and automatic responses.


Robinson and Becker: found that schizophrenics struggle to identify words which they have created themselves, or ones they've never seen before. This supports Frith's theory that they can't distinguish between external information (words read) and internal information (words created) - problems of metarepresentation.

Frith (1970) found that when asked to guess if the next card would be red or blue, schizophrenics gave patterned, stereotypical choices (RRR, RBRB, RRBB) whereas…


Rosie Thompson


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