The Cognitive Explanation of Schizophrenia

  • Created by: Ivy
  • Created on: 13-06-13 16:04

The Cognitive Explanation of Schizophrenia


  • There is evidence to support the cognitive explanation. For example,Drury, Robinson and Birchwood (1998). This suggests that schizophrenics experience difficulties interpreting the beliefs and intentions of others. This adds weight to Frith’s theory that schizophrenics suffer deficits in meta representation.
  • There are alternative interpretations of Drury, Robinsons and Birchwood’s findings because poor performance of schizophrenics may not have been due to a lack of Theory of Mind but due to information processing overload in dealing with the complex nature of the task. This suggests that schizophrenia is not due to problems with meta-representation, as Frith suggested, but due to difficulty filtering information and attending to relevant information, as suggested by Hemsley.
  • The cognitive approach as a practical application. As Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has been found to have a significant effect in reducing both positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia through brief intervention programmes (Turkington et al 2000). Therefore the cognitive approach is likely to be valid, as treatments based on cognitive assumptions are effective in improving symptoms of schizophrenia.
  • There is evidence to support the cognitive explanation of schizophrenia. For example, McGuigan (1966)This suggests that schizophrenics mistook their own inner speech for that of someone else, showing Hemsley’s theory of poor integration of memory and perception to be valid.


  • The cognitive approach is limited because it can only explain the positive symptoms experienced by schizophrenics, but offers no explanation for negative symptoms, such as affective flattening. Therefore it is likely that there are other factors that play a role in causing schizophrenia that account for the presence of the negative symptoms.
  • There is a problem of causality with the cognitive approach because the approach assumes that cognitive dysfunction is the cause of schizophrenia, when it may be that schizophrenia causes the cognitive dysfunction. Therefore it is impossible to claim that the cognitive explanation is valid as we cannot identify whether cognitive dysfunction us a cause or symptom of schizophrenia.
  • There is evidence contradicting the cognitive explanation. Studies of brain damaged patients have shown that they often experience similar cognitive deficits to schizophrenics, such as problems with attention or with the relationship between memory and perception. However, despite this they do not develop symptoms of schizophrenia. This means that the cognitive explanation alone is unlikely to be valid as if it was these brain damaged patients would develop schizophrenic symptoms. This other factors, such as biochemistry, must play a role in the cause of schizophrenia.


This approach fails to incorporate genetic factors that clearly play a role in schizophrenia. For example, Gottesman (1991)  This suggests that genes play a significant role in causing schizophrenia, as MZ twins are genetic clones, whilst DZ twins share found 50% of their DNA. Thus, assuming environment is similar for twins, any increased concordance rate amongst MZ twins is due to greater genetic similarity. As a result, any valid explanation of schizophrenia should incorporate biological and psychological factors. For example, the diathesis-stress model, which proposes that an underlying predisposition (such as the genetic history of schizophrenia) will result in the development of schizophrenia only in people who also experience a stressor (such as cognitive dysfunction).




So helpful, thanks 

Phil Mitchell