Tuesday, 6 October 2015

PERFECT Year Two: Lisa

The second year of ERC-funded project PERFECT (logo above) has just started and it is time to look back at what we have done so far and make plans for the future.

What we have done so far

Ema, Magdalena, Michael and I have had a very busy time, delivering talks, writing papers, and sponsoring a series of really interesting, interdisciplinary events, including a public engagement event on Sight, Sound and Mental Health for the Arts and Science Festival 2015, a Delusion lunchtime seminar with experts on delusion formation, and a session on the Function of Delusions as part of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Annual Congress.

We had three papers published open access: a review paper on costs and benefits of realism and optimism in Current Opinion in Psychiatry, a paper on the ethics of delusional belief in Erkenntnis, and a review paper on the nature and development of delusions in Philosophy Compass. Many more are in progress!

We continued to disseminate our work on the blog, and also created an Imperfect Cognitions playlist on YouTube highlighting our network members' work, and an app for iOS and Android, called PERFECT, free to download, with information about events, links to relevant sites, videos, blog posts, links to papers, and some interactive features (e.g., "Ask PERFECT"!)

What I plan to do next

Ema, Magdalena, and Michael will tell you about their own plans in the next few Tuesday blog posts, and I will say something about mine here. 

I am increasingly interested in what irrational cognitions mean for agency. Overly optimistic beliefs ("I am a talented football player" when I am just a mediocre one) and explanations that are not grounded on evidence ("I offered the job to Jim and not to Julie because he was better prepared" when my selection was based on implicit biases due to gender stereotypes) are good examples of cognitions that do not seem to get us any closer to the truth but play some role in helping us achieve other goals, some of which turn out to be epistemically worthwhile.

In the optimistic belief case, the conviction that I am good at football may increase my desire to play, and I may get better at playing football over time because I practise. In the hiring decision case, offering a reason that would be a good reason for my choice may help me impose coherence on my past and future behaviour and identify with someone who chooses job candidates on the basis of their performance at interview. In both cases, my self-esteem is going to increase as a result.

With the help of Ema and Magdalena, I want to see whether the notion of epistemic innocence we previously discussed on the blog applies to optimistic beliefs and ill-grounded explanations, and in the process attempt to understand what role such cognitions have in facilitating engagement with the surrounding physical and social environment.

I expect the answer to be a complex one, and distinctions will have to be made, both among different types of optimistic beliefs and ill-grounded explanations, and among the different contexts in which such cognitions emerge. In the investigation of distortions of reality involving memory, I am excited to collaborate with Kathy Puddifoot, the new research fellow on PERFECT, who is bringing to the project her enthusiasm and her expertise in epistemology and philosophy of psychology.

To a new exciting year of PERFECT!

P.S. You can also watch my video on Year 2 of PERFECT.

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