Richard Bentall

Monday, June 20 2022 at 7:30PM

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Farm Road
South Yorkshire S2 2TP

(Press the buzzer to be let in. We are in the back room of the Club.)

Richard Bentall

What's the talk about?

 Anyone who spends more than ten minutes arguing politics on Twitter faces a high risk of being accused of being 'delusional'. However, the term 'delusion' is used by mental health professionals to describe an abnormal belief that is the symptom of a mental illness. Typically these are of five kinds: paranoid, grandiose, reference (the belief of being the focus of special messages or attention), of being controlled, or religious. However, the greatest minds in psychiatry have laboured long and hard to agree on how psychotic delusions differ from other beliefs and attitudes. Part of the problem seems to be what the Victorian journalist Charles MacKay termed the 'madness of crowds' - the huge range of bizarre beliefs held by people in the general population. To MacKay's many examples, a modern catographer of beliefs would have to add numerous pseudosciences and conspiracy theories such as QAnon. And what about Richard Dawkins' claim that the belief in God is a delusion? In this talk I will discuss many suggested ways of distinguishing between pathological and nonpathological beliefs, suggest a solution of my own, and illustrate how examining pathological beliefs can inform our understanding of beliefs in general.

 Richard Bentall is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Sheffield and has previously held chairs at Liverpool University, Manchester University and Bangor University. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of the British Academy. He has studied the cognitive and emotional mechanisms involved in psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoid delusions and manic states, using methods ranging from psychological experiments, and experience sampling to functional magnetic resonance imaging.