Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 337–353 | Cite as

Can Anosognosia for Hemiplegia be Explained as Motivated Self-Deception?

Article

Abstract

Anosognosia for hemiplegia (AHP) is the denial of neurologically-caused paralysis, and it often co-occurs with a number of distortions of belief and emotion such as somatoparaphrenia and an exaggeration of negative affect towards minor health complaints. The salience of these latter symptoms led early investigators to propose explanations of AHP which construed it as a process of motivated self-deception against the overwhelming anxiety and depression that knowledge of deficit would otherwise cause, and which was observed in hemiplegic patients without the anosognosia. Since some influential critiques of this approach, however, theories of this kind have largely been rejected on the grounds that they are inappropriately “psychogenic.” What has replaced them are a class of theories which explain the lack of awareness in terms of neurocognitive deficit, with the deficit in question variously described by researchers as involving spatial awareness, motor control, and other capacities. In this paper I argue – contra claims in the literature – that the patterns of explanation which are characteristic of the psychodynamic theory are not incompatible in principle with the notion that the illness involves neurocognitive deficit. That means that these patterns of explanation can be preserved where they make good sense of the obscure attitudinal and emotional symptoms that occur in AHP – symptoms that are otherwise difficult to explain. I suggest some ways in which this fact could be accommodated by deficit theories of the illness which are based on motor deficit.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia

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