Schizophrenia is a psychiatric pathology associated with brain disorders and thinking in particular. Its exact causes are unknown. However, scientists identify many factors that increase the risk of its development. They can be both endogenous, i.e., internal, for example, heredity, and exogenous, or external. The latter case refers to trauma, social phenomena, etc.
There are many ways to classify schizophrenia. You can have seizures-like, chronic, sluggish, or acute symptoms. Each type can be characterized by its symptoms. As a rule, they are associated with hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, obsessions, and other symptoms. Psychiatrists deal with the treatment of such pathologies.
The Concept of Social Schizophrenia
Social schizophrenia is a concept used in the humanities to explain social phenomena. The term and general approach to split personality are taken from medicine and psychopathology. It has been transferred to sociology, psychology, and philosophy to study various conflicts and social problems based on medical terminology. Let’s try to understand this phenomenon.
The Sociological Aspect of Social Schizophrenia
There is no precise explanation, as it may be in medicine, of what social schizophrenia is. In the natural sciences, it is much simpler: there is a term and its definition. A doctor diagnoses based on the clinical picture and symptoms and prescribes a treatment.
With social concepts, everything is more complicated. The same category can be interpreted differently by different researchers. That is why there is no strict scientific definition of social schizophrenia. There is also no unified view on the solution to this problem.
Insulin therapy treats schizophrenia in medical practice, counseling, psychotherapy, and for rare and severe cases. They cannot cure schizophrenia completely, but they can improve their quality of life and save them from certain death.
There are only assumptions, some sociological data, and hypotheses in the humanities. On their basis, each person can form their opinion and make an appropriate decision.
Types of Social Schizophrenia
In simple terms, social schizophrenia in sociology is society’s loss of internal unity, the splitting of social life, manifested in social tensions as well as in class, religious and national conflicts. Types of social schizophrenia include:
- National conflicts after the collapse of the USSR.
- Aggressive attitudes in religious institutions.
- The emergence of suicidal sects.
A typical type of social schizophrenia is associated with a different interpretation of reality by people. At work, they say one thing and at home another, when there is support for this or that phenomenon outwardly, but their thoughts do not support it but refute it. It was the case in the last 10-15 years of the USSR when many people stopped believing in a bright future but kept talking about it at work, public events, etc.
In such situations, a person loses his own identity. It is as if two selves are developing in him, each of which is trying to survive. Oneself, connected with the outside world, adjusts itself to the system of values declared by the state. The second self, the inner self, tries not to get lost behind the first and to preserve itself as a personality.
Sociologists and philosophers may use other definitions to define this phenomenon. In most cases, we are talking about social division, the consequence of a particular historical epoch. Time, political doctrine, working conditions, production methods, and other social factors determine human behavior.
In cases where this contradicts his nature and survival instincts, a split can occur, not within a single psyche but in the social consciousness. The key to this split is the individual’s alienation, manifested in his behavior and how he interacts with those around him.
The Psychological Aspect of Social Schizophrenia
As noted earlier, schizophrenia can have an endogenous and exogenous nature. We discuss bodily, social, and mental factors in the second case. Social schizophrenia in this context can be considered sociogenic schizophrenic-like reactions arising in response to industrial and social relations changes.
The term “schizophrenic-like” is a medical term representing a psychotic disorder similar to schizophrenia but arising from trauma, infection, and other exogenous causes.
The main difference between external and internal factors is their temporary nature. Social schizophrenia is reversible and can disappear without a trace if the social triggers of its occurrence are eliminated. If the disorder is endogenous, a persistent personality defect often develops, and sometimes a complete disintegration of the personality.
Symptoms of Social Schizophrenia
The symptomatology of social schizophrenia is as follows:
- Impaired thinking;
- A weakening of the will;
- Changes in behavioral patterns.
But since the nature of this “disease” is social, not biological, its signs are not realized by the “patient.” In schizophrenia therapy, awareness of the illness is one of the critical points of treatment. If the schizophrenic person can realize that he is ill, it becomes much easier to treat him. In such cases, he is not dangerous and therefore can communicate with others.
It is not always possible to explain to a person with schizophrenia that he needs therapy. Sometimes he lives in a state of seizure for many years and loses himself. In the case of social schizophrenia, things are a little more complicated. It is not a disease in the literal sense of the word. A person who could be given such a “diagnosis” can consider himself quite normal without feeling any impairment of will, psyche, thinking, etc.
In typical schizophrenia, a person may be aware of a problem by specific symptoms, such as hallucinations. At the very least, his loved ones or himself may become puzzled and see a specialist.
In the case of social schizophrenia, such an outcome is unlikely. Few people are willing to admit their wrongdoing, admit their weakness of will and ask for help from a specialist. Moreover, it is not always clear to whom precisely to address, primarily when social schizophrenia covers the whole society or a significant part of it.
Just think of Nazi Germany, where millions of people sincerely believed in the superiority of their race and the need to subjugate or destroy other peoples. Ordinary people who go to work, get married and have children begin to believe en masse that they are the chosen ones and that people who differ from them in appearance are the causes of all their troubles and are therefore persecuted.
After the end of World War II and the overthrow of Hitler’s dictatorship, the symptoms of this social disorder disappeared, and people became normal again. And most of them were ashamed of what they had thought and done before.
Adaptation is a way for the brain to survive.
Similar phenomena have subsequently been reproduced under artificial conditions. One of the most famous studies, the Stanford Prison Experiment, was conducted by Philip Zimbardo (1971).
Its essence is the following: two groups of people, mostly students, were asked to play the role of guards and convicts. They were given the appropriate uniforms, after which 12 people took their positions as jailers, and the other 12 went to their cells.
Mockery of the former over the latter began almost immediately. She was associated primarily with moral humiliation. The warders insulted the convicts and forced them to undress and sleep under mattresses on the iron bunks.
On the fifth day of the experiment, Zimbardo asked his fiancée, a psychologist, to perform a series of tests. She was horrified at how badly her fiancé had violated ethical standards and broke off the engagement. Only then did the scientist end the experiment prematurely.
What was interesting was that almost all of the participants felt shame. The supervisors were uncomfortable with their harshness. And these were ordinary people who went home to their families every night and played the roles of fathers, husbands, sons, and friends. By putting on their uniforms in prison, they suddenly became despots.
The behavior of the inmates was also quite strange. They could have refused to participate in the experiment at any moment, but none of them did so. They were, of course, entitled to a reward, but even the financially well-off participants were unwilling to interrupt the humiliation to which the guards subjected them.
I studied this phenomenon many times later. Eventually, scientists concluded that external factors determine human behavior. The brain adapts to any situation, even in difficult or unbearable situations.
It is why almost all people under the influence of propaganda become fascists in one country. Young men with no propensity to violence engage in hazing within the army, and, in the 1990s, the Soviet citizens of yesterday who used to walk the streets and pick up waste paper were turned into racketeers.
Before the development of technology, which today allows us to look into the living human brain, many theories, especially in psychology, were speculative. Behaviorists said one thing, psychoanalysts said another, and representatives of Gestalt psychology said a third. Each of them claimed to be the ultimate truth. However, they all put forward only suppositions, which could be both true and false.
Current data on the workings of the brain have ended years of arguments about consciousness, thinking, memory, etc. it does not mean that we have learned everything about ourselves. On the contrary, scientists know that the human brain is less understood than the world’s oceans or the cosmos. There are more neuronal connections in our gray matter than elementary particles in the Universe, so there are still many discoveries to be made.
However, the basic principles of how the brain works have become apparent thanks to fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). The sciences that began to study the human brain became known as neuroscience. There are quite a few: neurobiology, neurophysiology, neuropsychology, neurolinguistics, etc.
Many humanists, including psychologists, philosophers, and sociologists, are forced to take up discoveries made by biologists and physiologists. Otherwise, their research will remain as speculative as ever.
If we are talking about the principles of the brain, then in the context of this article, the following points are of interest:
- The brain works based on predictions.
- Predictions are based on beliefs.
- Beliefs can be a priori and acquired.
- Any belief tries to preserve itself.
- The brain protects itself by defending beliefs.
It sounds a bit fuzzy. However, let’s try to understand it in a little more detail.
In simple terms, the brain survives on the beliefs it has formed. Each of these beliefs has its chain of neurons. Adhering to the established order is one of the ways of human survival. At least, that is what our brain thinks.
Beliefs can be innate. Renowned neuroscience popularizer Chris Frith calls them a priori. We are born with them and cannot influence them in any way. For example, the brain is convinced that light always shines from above and that a person’s face can only be convex. Based on this, British psychologist Richard Gregory developed a test for schizophrenia called the Charlie Chaplin Mask.
The test is simple enough. It requires a Chaplin mask with a concave face. It is the same as a regular face but painted inside the plaster figure. When such an improvised head rotates clockwise and turns to the viewer with the concave part of the face, it seems to the person that the mask rotates in the opposite direction, and his face is convex, like all people.
The point is that the belief that the face is convex is so strong that one cannot see the truth, even knowing that it is an optical illusion. People with schizophrenia, on the other hand, do not perceive them and, for some reason, see precisely the concave face.
As you can see, this belief determines what we see. Understanding that it is being deceived, the brain continues to supply false information to the consciousness. It can do the same with all the other data that comes into it from the outside world. It only shows us what it sees fit.
Acquired beliefs are formed in us during life, that is, in the upbringing process. The primary tool for them is the language and culture we create. The information in the brain forms a belief that becomes part of the body’s overall desire to survive.
Humans are made up of many habits (or beliefs). We always walk, eat, brush our teeth and laugh according to the same algorithm. Gait, voice, movements, and facial expressions are randomly formed as the body develops.
Subsequently, the brain tries to adhere to them. If we take our toothbrush in our other hand or take a new route to work, we will be uncomfortable. It is because old beliefs are broken, and new ones are formed.
The algorithm described above explains both physiological and behavioral habits and what we used to call a worldview. Here, too, everything has to do with beliefs. Information about racism, a political party, a historical person, or an epoch, which has entered the brain, also becomes a habit. And it happens randomly, as a rule, under the influence of external factors.
It is known that the brain consists of two hemispheres. Conditionally one of them, the right hemisphere, is responsible for emotional perception, and the left one – is for logic. But the latter always takes the lead over the former. The left hemisphere explains information like the right but is not refuted as logic often requires.
It happens so often in life. A man is attracted to a girl, and he begins to idealize her. All around and even her behavior indicates that she is not ideal. However, the left hemisphere, which should work logically, finds arguments in favor of the fact that he liked the girl for a reason.
The same is true of other beliefs-political, social, national, religious, etc. If a person likes something, he seeks confirmation that his choice is correct. Negative points are considered insignificant, and positive points support the formed belief or comfort zone.
For this reason, society is constantly divided, especially when discussing political issues. For example, one part of the citizens favor Stalin, while another is against him. Both groups can find many arguments to defend their point of view.
Moreover, the former is ready to justify all repressions and deaths, while the latter denies victory in the war and other achievements of the USSR. Both groups believe they have a point of view. They seek additional information and use it as arguments against their opponents.
In reality, however, this is not the case. Both brains are simply trying to maintain their beliefs to survive since maintaining one’s comfort zone is the primary way of survival. The brain sends the arguments convenient for it into the mind. The latter is the attendant of a one-and-a-half kilogram jelly-like mass of neurons called the brain.
Based on these data, the phenomenon of social schizophrenia acquires more scientific outlines. Biological principles primarily explain it.
What to do?
The easiest way to live consciously and make decisions on your own, not at the behest of your brain, is to learn to tell him “no.” It is easier to agree with what he likes. However, you can’t call this process purposeful thinking. Refuting what the brain wants to adhere to can prevent it from forming beliefs (habits).
Collecting new information and facts without forming them into some narratives allows a person to get closer to the truth. The thought “it all makes sense to me” about this phenomenon is another brain trap, always trying to create a new belief and stick to it.
Trying to prevent this avoids social schizophrenia, as one becomes less vulnerable to external factors, including propaganda or public opinion.
Predictions of the brain
The formation of beliefs allows the brain to ensure its survival. They help it predict the future. Whatever a person did, said, or thought first happened in his head. Only after that does the body do the brain’s bidding, and the mind interprets what has already happened.
They have proven it in an experiment by Benjamin Libet conducted in 1983. He conducted a study within the framework of neurophilosophy, studying free will. The essence of it is as follows. The participant, whose hand was attached to the electrodes, had to follow the point on the screen dial. When a person was asked to move his hand, he had to remember the dot’s position on the monitor.
The study’s results showed that the brain activity of the limb movement area occurred earlier than the human desire to move the arm. And the difference between these two actions was about 7 seconds.
It means that first, there is an activity in the brain, then the thought (intention) appears in the consciousness, and after that, the action takes place. With this experiment, Libet questioned free will. Similar studies were conducted later. All of them confirmed Libet’s discovery.
Thus, the brain undertakes something before it appears in consciousness. Simply put, it only receives a memory, which has already happened. Sometimes the brain makes a mistake and gives the wrong command. As an example, consider the following situation.
You are walking down the street, and you see someone you know. But when you approach him, you realize you were wrong. However, at the first moment, you saw the person you thought you knew. Your brain has received a small amount of information, collected a picture based on your beliefs, and sent it to your consciousness. That is, it made a prediction, but it was wrong. Having looked at the stranger closer, it corrects and shows us a different image.
If you touch your finger to your nose, we feel a touch on your finger and your nose. However, impulses travel longer from the hand to the brain because the neuron path from the mouth is much shorter. But we feel in contact at the same time. It is because there is no sensation at the moment of touch. The brain predicts it and sends it to consciousness. And when it occurs, our grey matter will not inform us about it for the second time.
Can apply these algorithms to all beliefs and predictions. They apply to our mundane and behavioral worlds, worldviews, and social ones. Understanding this, we can resist our brains, always choosing the most straightforward and accessible ways. By refuting the judgments it sends to the mind, it is possible not to give in to the provocations of political parties, religious sects, etc.
It’s no secret that modern man spends much time on social networks. We are talking about both children and adults. In this regard, scientists sound the alarm. The fact is that the content on such sites is constantly simplifying. If before people used to read books, now they rarely look through the texts below the posts, giving preference to short videos.
The reason is that the brain saves energy. Between text and video, it will choose the second type of content. It can also enjoy a book, but it takes time and energy. It is easier for the brain to watch a short story and release a small dose of endorphins into the body. So new habits are formed that make us think less and less.
There is another problem associated with social networks and relevant in the context of social schizophrenia. Modern programs and applications make it possible to change one’s appearance beyond recognition. Anyone with a mediocre appearance can look beautiful, fashionable, and stylish on social networks. In this case, fashion and beauty ideas are formed in our heads according to the same algorithm as other beliefs.
For this reason, some things were popular in one era, and in the next, they are already perceived as ridiculous, tasteless and ridiculous. Today, many people show themselves on social media as other people want them to be. Often the image broadcast outwardly does not coincide with what a person represents in reality.
Beliefs are also created based on this. Looking through other people’s pages on the Internet and comparing our life with others, we think that we live “somehow wrong,” Therefore, we begin to show our appearance and our way of acting just like the others. Because of this, consciousness is split into a virtual and authentic self.
There is another problem that is indirectly related to social schizophrenia. People, observing the lives of others, become frustrated that they are not as successful and happy. They compare their virtual images to their reality and become depressed.
As a result, the world begins to divide into “successful” and “unsuccessful,” “lucky” and “unsuccessful,” etc. And the primary criterion for such conclusions are material values, or, more precisely, beliefs that material values are the primary criterion for evaluating a person’s success.
According to medical data, depression is becoming a mass phenomenon almost as frequent as cardiovascular diseases. Doctors and psychologists believe that social media is a primary reason for this.
The main ideas of the article can be formulated as follows:
- Social schizophrenia is not a medical diagnosis but a complex social phenomenon associated with a split in society.
- Social schizophrenia results from the influence of external factors on a person and the reaction of beliefs created by the brain.
- When external conditions change, the signs of social schizophrenia may disappear. Unlike chronic schizophrenia, it is reversible and, as a rule, does not cause mental or personality damage.
- There are two ways to cope with social schizophrenia: to keep the brain from forming beliefs and to work through the already existing beliefs.
- Purposeful brain activity focusing on a specific problem allows you to live consciously and not by the “behest” of your brain’s beliefs.
The world is changing rapidly. It applies to technology as well as to our behavior. People are beginning to think and interact differently with each other. The data that neuroscience provides can help prepare the psyche for these changes. We only need to form the habit of consuming quality and helpful information.