A Modified Self-Knowledge Model of Thought Insertion

  • Sruthi RothenfluchEmail author


Thought insertion is a condition characterized by the impression that one's thoughts are not one’s own and have been inserted by others. Some have explained the condition as resulting, in part, from impaired or defective self-knowledge, or knowledge of one’s mental states. I argue that such models do not shed light on the most puzzling feature of thought insertion: the patient’s experience that an introspected thought does not feel like her own. After examining ways in which existing versions of the model might address this worry, I propose a significant modification. I argue that the experience of disownership consists in a rational indifference that one feels towards one’s inserted thought. I further contend that the experience is generated by an underlying absence of an expectation of rational authority towards the inserted thought, such that the patient does not expect her thought to reflect, or be shaped by, her own rational considerations. I defend my proposal using empirical studies from cognitive and social psychology which suggest that we ordinarily have and experience an expectation of rational authority towards a certain subset of our thoughts, and direct analysis of patient reports, which strongly suggest that it is this expectation and the corresponding experience that thought insertion patients lack.



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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of PortlandPortlandUSA

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