Prof. Dr. Shaifali Sandhya: Cultural Shaping of Delusions: Influences on Cognition, Sense and Sexuality

Prof. Dr. Shaifali Sandhya from the University of Tübingen will give a talk on “Cultural Shaping of Delusions: Influences on Cognition, Sense and Sexuality”.


“Anisha, a former web developer turned full-time mother living in Chicago, is in the midst of an acrimonious divorce battle in which she is seeking primary custody of her two children. In the winter of 2014, the presiding judge in the case orders a routine psychological evaluation that reveals Anisha’s predilection for odd beliefs and bizarre behaviors.  Soon her imagined persecution and false beliefs – including her beliefs that her thoughts are being manipulated by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and her philandering spouse – come to require the involvement of an entire range of private and government institutions, including law enforcement, Internet service providers (ISPs), financial-services providers and mental health providers.
Using Anisha as a case study, this paper explores the role of culture in shaping delusions. A delusion is a false belief idiosyncratic to the individual where he or she cannot be persuaded that the belief is incorrect, despite all evidence to the contrary. We will examine how subcultures (for example, technological subcultures) can provide patients with a symptom repertoire, available to the unconscious mind for the expression, experience and resolution of the psychological conflict.  We will also explore how cultural schemas about gender, globalization, and power shape the experience of the self and suffering, as well as the particular motifs of the delusional experience. As Anisha negotiates her religious Indian understandings while navigating the American legal system, could her delusions be, in fact, adaptive?
Possible hypotheses are discussed within the ongoing revolutions in love and sexuality in modern India, where within the last decade intimate relationships have endured more change than in the last three thousand years. The universality and stability of Anisha’s delusions, and their malleable content, demonstrate that delusions can be shaped by myriad factors including systems of cultural meaning, and not by neurobiology alone. Moving beyond the cognitive theory of delusions, this paper highlights the need to understand how the beliefs of the sufferer shape their suffering and the broader cultural narratives in which their beliefs are immersed.”

The event begins at 6 p.m.

The talk is free and open to the public. Everyone interested is cordially invited.

Date: 05/05/2015


Conference Room of the International Center for Philosophy NRW (IZPH)
Poppelsdorfer Allee 28
53115 Bonn
3rd floor (elevator available)
Entrance area not barrier-free