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Intensity of Experience: Maher’s Theory of Schizophrenic Delusion Revisited

  • Eisuke SakakibaraEmail author
Original Paper


Maher proposed in 1974 that schizophrenic delusions are hypotheses formed to explain anomalous experiences. He stated that they are “rational, given the intensity of the experiences that they are developed to explain.” Two-factor theorists of delusion criticized Maher’s theory because 1) it does not explain why some patients with anomalous experiences do not develop delusions, and 2) adopting and adhering to delusional hypotheses is irrational, considering the totality of experiences and patients’ other beliefs. In this paper, the notion of the intensity of experience is reappraised to uphold Maher’s basic conception. Regarding 1), I propose that differences in the intensity of anomalous experience are vital to whether the patient forms delusions, while partially reforming his rationality claim regarding 2). Although adopting delusions is irrational, it is inevitable and excusable, given the intensity of the patient’s anomalous experience. With the aid of this notion, it is maintained that anomalous experience is sufficient for the development of delusions, at least in some cases of schizophrenia. Compared to other theories of schizophrenic delusion, Maher’s theory, which embraces the notion of intensity of experience, better explains why such irrational mental states as delusions develop from anomalous experiences, and why delusional patients persist in believing specific thematic content.


Rationality Anomalous experience Psychopathology Inference error theory Two-factor theory Prediction-error theory 



I have no funding to declare. I thank Philip Gerrans and Kengo Miyazono, who read an early manuscript and provided detailed and enlightening comments. I wish also to thank Rachel Gunn, John O’Dea, Yukihiro Nobuhara, Shigenori Tadokoro, Takeshi Kanasugi, and Masanori Kataoka for helpful feedback in workshops at which I presented an early manuscript. I also deeply appreciate the constructive comments by anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeuropsychiatryThe University of Tokyo HospitalTokyoJapan

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