A recent paper in the medical journal Psychopathology has analysed the links between websites of likely-delusional people who publish their experiences of ‘mind control’ on the internet, and has concluded that they challenge the psychiatric criteria for the diagnosis of delusions.
One of the defining features of a delusion is that it should not be a belief “ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture”. Nevertheless, some researchers have noted that there is no clear measure of what is ‘ordinarily accepted’.
It is also possible that cultures or subcultures could be based around beliefs that would otherwise be diagnosed as delusional. Until now, however, there have been no obvious examples of such subcultures identified.
In the Psychopathology paper, ten websites reporting psychosis-like ‘mind control’ experiences were identified. The reports were anonymised and independently blind-rated by three psychiatrists who confirmed that they reflect experiences stemming from psychosis.
The links between the websites were then analysed using a technique called social network analysis that allows the social network of the authors to be inferred.
This analysis suggested that the authors of the reports were part of a ‘small world‘ social network, based around the content of likely-delusional beliefs (click here to see the network structure in a popup window).
This contradicts the current definition of a delusion, suggesting that it is becoming increasing redundant as technology shapes and re-shapes social networks.
It also suggests that, according to the current definition, anyone can ‘cure’ themselves of a delusion by using the internet to find or form a community of others who share the same belief!
Importantly, however, the researchers make clear that this research does not imply that all of the internet ‘mind control’ community are psychotic, as reports were chosen to specifically reflect psychosis-like experiences.
It is interesting, however, that the identified authors are also likely to be an active part of a wider, non-psychotic community, who may have similar, although differently motivated, concerns.
Link to abstract of study.
PDF of paper.
Disclaimer: This paper is from my own research group.