Schizophrenia is a psychiatric pathology associated with disruption of the brain and thinking, in particular. Its exact causes are unknown. However, scientists identify many factors that increase the risk of its development. They can be either endogenous, that is, internal, for example, heredity, exogenous, or external. In the latter case, we are talking about traumas, social phenomena, etc.
Schizophrenia is classified on a variety of grounds. It can be paroxysmal, chronic, sluggish, acute, etc. Each type has its own characteristics. Typically, they are associated with hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, obsessions, and other symptoms. Psychiatrists treat such pathologies.
The Concept of Social Schizophrenia
Social schizophrenia is a concept used in the humanities to explain social phenomena. From medicine and psychopathology, only the term and the general approach associated with the splitting of the personality are taken. It was transferred to sociology, psychology, and philosophy in order to study various kinds of conflicts and social problems on the basis of medical terminology. Let’s try to understand this phenomenon.
The Sociological Aspect of Social Schizophrenia
There is no exact explanation, as it may be in medicine, of what social schizophrenia is. In the natural sciences, everything is much simpler: there is a term and its definition. The doctor makes a diagnosis based on the clinical picture and symptoms, and on its basis prescribes treatment.
With social concepts, things are more complicated. Different researchers can interpret the same category in different ways. Therefore, there is no strict scientific definition of social schizophrenia. Also, there is no single point of view on the solution to this problem.
In medical practice, for schizophrenia, consultations, psychotherapeutic methods, and in rare and severe cases, insulin therapy is prescribed. At the same time, they cannot completely cure schizophrenia, but they can significantly improve the quality of his life or save him from death.
In the humanities, there are only assumptions, some sociological data, and hypotheses. Based on them, each person can form their own opinion and make an appropriate decision.
Examples of Social Schizophrenia
In simple words, social schizophrenia in sociology is the loss of internal unity by society, the splitting of social life, manifested in social tension, as well as in class, religious and national conflicts. Examples of social schizophrenia are:
- National conflicts after the collapse of the USSR.
- Aggressive moods in religious institutions.
- The emergence of suicidal sects.
A typical example of social schizophrenia is associated with different interpretations of the surrounding reality by people, when they say one thing at work and another at home, when outwardly there is support for this or that phenomenon, and their own thoughts not only do not support it but also refute it. So it was in the last 10-15 years of the existence of the USSR when many no longer believed in any bright future but continued to talk 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. One I, connected with the outside world, adjusts to the system of values that is declared by the state. The second I, the inner one, tries not to get lost behind the first and preserve itself as a person.
Sociologists and philosophers may use other definitions for a given phenomenon. In most cases, we are talking about a social split, which is a consequence of a particular historical era. This means that time, political doctrine, working conditions, production methods, and other social factors determine human behavior.
In cases where this is contrary to his nature, that is, his survival instincts, a split can occur, and not within the framework of one psyche, but in the public consciousness. The key point of this split is the alienation of a person, manifested in his behavior and ways of interacting with others.
The Psychological Aspect of Social Schizophrenia
As noted earlier, schizophrenia can be endogenous and exogenous in nature. In the second case, we are talking about somatic, social, and mental factors. Social schizophrenia in this context can be considered sociogenic schizophrenia-like reactions that occur in response to changes in industrial and social relations.
The term “schizophrenia-like” is also a medical term and is a psychotic disorder similar to schizophrenia. but arising from injuries, infections, and other exogenous causes.
The main difference between external and internal factors is related to their temporary nature. Social schizophrenia is reversible and can disappear without a trace if the social triggers of its occurrence are eliminated. With the endogenous nature of the disease, a persistent personality defect often develops, and sometimes its complete disintegration.
Symptoms of Social Schizophrenia
The symptoms of social schizophrenia are as follows:
- Impaired thinking;
- Weakening of the will;
- Behavioral change.
But, since the nature of this “disease” is social, and not biological, its signs are not recognized by the “sick”. In the treatment of schizophrenia, awareness of the disease is one of the key points of treatment. If a schizophrenic manages to realize that he is sick, it becomes much easier to treat him. In such cases, he is not dangerous and therefore can contact others.
It is not always possible to explain to a person with schizophrenia that he needs therapy. Sometimes he lives in a state of attack for many years and loses his I. In the case of social schizophrenia, everything is somewhat more complicated. It is not a disease in the truest sense of the word. A person who could be given such a “diagnosis” can consider himself quite normal, without feeling a weakening of the will, psyche, thinking, etc.
In ordinary schizophrenia, a person can understand the presence of a problem by certain symptoms, such as hallucinations. At least, his relatives or he himself may be puzzled and turn to a specialist.
In the case of social schizophrenia, this outcome is unlikely. Few people are ready to admit they were wrong, admit to the weakness of will and ask for help from one or another specialist. In addition, it is not always clear who exactly to turn to, especially when social schizophrenia covers the whole society or a significant part of it.
Suffice it to recall Nazi Germany, in which 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, massively begin to believe that they are the chosen ones, and people who differ from them in appearance are the causes of all their troubles, and therefore are subject to persecution.
After the end of World War II and the overthrow of the dictatorship of Hitler, the symptoms of this social disorder disappeared, and people became normal again. Moreover, most of them felt ashamed of what they thought and did before.
Adaptation as a way of brain survival
Similar phenomena were subsequently reproduced under artificial conditions. One of the most famous studies, called the “Stanford Prison Experiment”, was conducted by Philip Zimbardo (1971).
Its essence is as follows: two groups of people, mostly students, were asked to play the roles of guards and convicts. They received the appropriate form, after which 12 people took up their posts as jailers, while the other 12 went to their cells.
Bullying of the first over the second began almost immediately. Moreover, they were associated primarily with moral humiliation. The guards insulted the convicts and forced them to undress and sleep under mattresses on iron beds.
On the fifth day of the experiment, Zimbardo asked his fiancée, who was a psychologist, to run a series of tests. She was horrified at how much her fiancé violated ethical standards, and broke off the engagement. Only then did the scientist complete the experiment ahead of schedule.
Interestingly, almost all participants experienced shame. The guards were uncomfortable with their rigidity. Moreover, these were ordinary people who returned home to their families every evening and played the roles of fathers, husbands, sons, and friends. It was only by putting on uniforms in prison that they suddenly became such despots.
The behavior of the convicts also turned out to be rather strange. They could refuse to participate in the experiment at any time, but none of them did. They, of course, we’re supposed to be rewarded, but even the financially secure participants did not want to interrupt the humiliation to which the guards subjected them.
This phenomenon has been investigated many times since. As a result, scientists came to the conclusion that human behavior is determined by external factors. The brain, trying to survive in any conditions, instantly accepts the new rules of the game, adapting even to terrible and, at first glance, unbearable circumstances.
Therefore, in one country, almost all people under the influence of propaganda become fascists, young men without a propensity for violence engage in “hazing” in the army, and in the 90s, yesterday’s Soviet citizens, who transferred grandmothers across the road and collected waste paper, turn into racketeers.
Before the development of technologies that today allow us to look into the living human brain, many theories, especially in psychology, were speculative. Behaviorists said one thing, psychoanalysts another, Gestalt psychologists a third. Each of them claimed to be the ultimate truth. However, all of them put forward only assumptions that could be either true or false.
Modern data on the functioning of the brain put an end to the long-term debate about consciousness, thinking, memory, etc. This does not mean that we have become aware of everything about ourselves. On the contrary, scientists are well aware that the human brain is less studied than the world’s oceans or outer space. There are more neural connections in our gray matter than there are elementary particles in the universe, so there will be many more discoveries.
However, the basic principles of the brain have become clear, thanks to fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). The sciences that began to study the human brain began to be called neurosciences. There are quite a lot of them – neurobiology, neurophysiology, neuropsychology, neurolinguistics, etc.
Many humanists, including psychologists, philosophers, and sociologists, are forced to adopt the discoveries made by biologists and physiologists. Otherwise, their research will remain speculative, as before.
If we talk about the principles of the brain, then in the context of this article, the following points are of interest:
- The brain works on the basis of predictions.
- Predictions are based on beliefs.
- Beliefs can be a priori and acquired.
- Any belief is trying to save itself.
- The brain protects itself by defending beliefs.
It sounds a little blurry. However, let’s try to understand a little more.
In simple words, the brain survives due to the beliefs formed in it. Each of them is responsible for its own chain of neurons. Sticking to the established order is one of the ways of human survival. At least that’s what our brain thinks.
Beliefs can be innate. The well-known popularizer of neuroscience, Chris Frith, calls them a priori. We are born with them and cannot influence them in any way. So, the brain is convinced that the light always shines from above, and a person’s face can only be convex. Based on this, the British psychologist Richard Gregory developed a test for schizophrenia, called the “Charlie Chaplin Mask”.
The test is quite simple. It requires a Chaplin mask with a concave face. It is the same as usual but drawn inside the plaster figure. When such an impromptu head rotates clockwise and addresses the viewer with the concave part of the face, it seems to the person that the mask is spinning in the opposite direction, and her face is convex, like all people.
The fact is that the belief about the bulge of the face is so strong that a person cannot see the truth, even knowing that he is facing an optical illusion. Schizophrenics, on the other hand, do not perceive them and for some reason see exactly the concave face.
As you can see, this belief determines what we see. The brain, realizing that it is being deceived, continues to supply false information to consciousness. So he can do with all the other data that comes to him from the outside world. He only shows us what he sees fit.
Acquired beliefs are formed in us throughout life, that is, in the process of education. The main tool for them is the language and culture that we create. Once in the brain, the information forms a belief that becomes part of the body’s overall desire for survival.
A person is 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 habits that have formed randomly as the body develops.
Subsequently, the brain tries to stick to them. If we switch our toothbrushes or take a new route to work, we will experience discomfort. This is due to the fact that old beliefs are destroyed and new ones are formed.
The algorithm described above explains both physiological and behavioral habits, as well as what we used to call a worldview. It’s all about beliefs, too. Information about racism, a political party, a historical person, or an era that has entered the brain also becomes a habit. Moreover, this happens randomly, as a rule, under the influence of external factors.
It is known that the brain consists of two hemispheres. Conventionally, one of them, the right one, is responsible for emotional perception, and the left one is responsible for logic. However, the latter always follows the former. Information that pleases the right hemisphere is simply explained by the left, and not refuted, as logic often requires.
This happens often in life. The man liked the girl and he begins to idealize her. Everything around them and even her behavior suggest that she is not ideal. However, the left hemisphere, which should work logically, simply finds arguments in favor of the fact that the girl liked it for a reason.
The same is the case with other beliefs – political, social, national, religious, etc. If a person likes something, he is looking for confirmation that his choice is the right one. Negative moments are simply cut off as insignificant, and positive ones are used to maintain the formed belief or comfort zone.
For this reason, a split is constantly observed in society, especially when discussing political issues. For example, one part of the citizens are in favor of Stalin, and the other is against it. Both groups can find many arguments in order to defend their point of view.
Moreover, the former is ready to justify all repressions and deaths, while the latter even renounces victory in the war and other achievements of the USSR. Both groups believe they have a point of view. They look for additional information and use it as an argument against their opponents.
However, in reality, things are different. The brain of both is just trying to keep its belief in order to survive, since maintaining a comfort zone is the main way to survive. So that beliefs do not change, the brain sends arguments convenient for it to consciousness. The latter acts as attendants of a one-and-a-half kilogram jelly-like mass of neurons, which is called the brain.
Based on these data, the phenomenon of social schizophrenia takes on a more scientific shape. In many respects, it is explained by biological principles.
What to do?
The easiest way to live consciously and make a decision on your own, and not at the behest of the brain, is to learn to say “no” to it. It’s easier to agree with what he likes. However, this process cannot be called goal-directed thinking. Only by refuting what the brain wants to stick to can prevent it from forming beliefs (habits).
The collection of new information and facts without forming them into some kind of narrative allows a person to bring himself closer to the truth. The thought “I understand everything” about this or that phenomenon that came to mind is another trap of the brain, which is always trying to create a new belief and stick to it.
Attempts to prevent this avoid social schizophrenia, as a person becomes less vulnerable to external factors, including propaganda or public opinion.
Belief formation allows the brain to ensure its survival. They help him predict the future. Whatever a person does, says, or thinks, it first happened in his head. Only after that, the body carries out the order of the brain, and the consciousness interprets what has already happened.
This was proven in an experiment by Benjamin Libet conducted in 1983. He did research within neurophilosophy, studying free will. Its essence is as follows. The participant, to whose hand the electrodes were attached, had to follow the dot on the screen dial. When a desire to move a hand arose, a person had to remember the position of a point on the monitor.
The results of the study showed that the brain activity of the area of limb movement occurred earlier than the desire of a person to move his hand. Moreover, the difference between these two actions was approximately 7 seconds.
This means that first there is an activity in the brain, after that, a thought (intention) appears in the mind, and after that, an action is performed. With this experiment, Libet questioned free will. Similar studies were carried out later. All of them confirmed the discovery of Libet.
Thus, the brain does something before it appears in consciousness. Simply put, only a memory gets into it, that is, something that has already happened. In this case, sometimes the brain is mistaken and gives the wrong command. As an example, consider the following situation.
You are walking down the street and you see your friend. However, approaching him, you realize that you misunderstood. However, at the first moment, you really saw someone you thought you knew. The brain received a small amount of information, assembled a picture based on existing beliefs, and sent it to consciousness. That is, he made a prediction but was mistaken. Taking a closer look at the stranger, he corrects himself and shows us a different image.
If we touch our nose with our finger, we will feel the touch on the finger and on the nose. However, the impulse that travels from the hand to the brain takes longer to travel, since the path from the face to the neurons is much shorter. But we feel in contact at the same time. This is due to the fact that at the moment of touch there is no sensation. The brain predicts it and sends it to consciousness. When it really appears, then the second time our gray matter will not notify us about it.
These algorithms apply to all types of beliefs and predictions, both our behavioral and everyday and social and worldview. Understanding this, it is possible to resist your own brain, which always chooses the easiest way and the easiest way. By refuting the judgments that he sends to consciousness, it is possible not to succumb to provocations from political parties, religious sects, etc.
It’s no secret that modern people spend a lot of time on social networks. This applies to both children and adults. In this regard, scientists are sounding the alarm. The fact is that the content on such sites is constantly simplified. If earlier people read books, now they are even less likely to view the texts under the posts, preferring short videos.
The reason is that the brain saves energy. Between text and video, it will choose the second kind of content. He can get pleasure from the book, but it takes a lot of time and effort. It is easier for the brain to look at a short story and release a small dose of endorphins into the body. This is how new habits are formed that force us to think less and less.
There is another problem associated with social networks and relevant in the context of social schizophrenia. Modern programs and applications allow you to change your appearance beyond recognition. Any person, even with ordinary external data in social networks, can look beautiful, fashionable, and stylish. At the same time, the idea of fashion and beauty is formed in our heads according to the same algorithms as other beliefs.
For this reason, in one era some things were popular, and in the next, they are already perceived as ridiculous, tasteless, and funny. Today, many people show themselves on social networks the way other people want to see them. Often the image that is broadcast outside does not coincide with what a person is in reality.
Beliefs are also created on the basis of this. Looking through other people’s pages on the Internet and comparing our life with someone else’s, we think that we live “somehow wrong”, and therefore, we begin to demonstrate our appearance and our way of acting just like the rest. Because of this, there is a splitting of consciousness into a virtual I and a real I.
There is another problem that is indirectly related to social schizophrenia. People, watching the lives of others, begin to get upset that they are not as successful and happy. They compare their virtual images with their reality and become depressed.
As a result, the world begins to be divided into “successful” and “unsuccessful”, “lucky” and “losers”, etc. Moreover, the main criterion for such conclusions is material values, more precisely, the belief that material values are the main criterion for assessing the success of an individual.
According to doctors, depression is becoming widespread and occurs today almost as often as cardiovascular disease. Doctors and psychologists believe that one of the main reasons for this is social networks.
The main ideas of the article can be formulated as follows:
- Social schizophrenia is not a medical diagnosis but is a complex social phenomenon associated with a split in society.
- Social schizophrenia arises as a result of the impact on a person of external factors and the reaction to the beliefs created by the brain.
- When external conditions change, signs of social schizophrenia may disappear. It, unlike ordinary schizophrenia, is reversible and, as a rule, does not cause damage to the psyche and personality.
- There are two ways to resist social schizophrenia – to prevent the brain from forming beliefs and to work through those beliefs that already exist.
- Purposeful brain activity with a focus on a specific problem allows you to live consciously, and not according to the “order” of the brain’s beliefs.
The world is changing rapidly. This applies to both technology and our behavior. People begin to think and interact with each other in a different ways. The data that neuroscience provides will help prepare the psyche for these changes. It is only necessary to form the habit of consuming high-quality and useful information.