This project is funded by a European Research Council Consolidator Grant (ERC-2013-Co-G) awarded to Professor Lisa Bortolotti in order to explore the Pragmatic and Epistemic Role of Factually Erroneous Cognitions and Thoughts (PERFECT). The project started in October 2014 and will run for five years. The project will feature three post-doctoral fellows, two PhD students, and the participation of Dr Michael Larkin from the School of Psychology.
PERFECT aims to establish whether cognitions that are inaccurate in some important respect can ever be good from a pragmatic or an epistemic point of view. Can delusional beliefs, distorted memories, and confabulatory explanations, which are frequent in the non-clinical population and also listed as symptoms of psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and dementia, have redeeming features?
- Challenge current frameworks of epistemic evaluation in order to acknowledge that cognitions can contribute to knowledge and self-knowledge without meeting the standards of truth and accuracy, and to take into account constraints on cognitive capacities (perception, reasoning, and memory).
- Challenge current accounts of delusions, memory distortions, and confabulations in the psychological literature in order to move towards accounts which are sensitive to the potential epistemic benefits of such cognitions and to their role in supporting a unified and coherent sense of agency.
- Inform clinical interventions on people with psychiatric disorders on the basis of the role of delusions, memory distortions, and confabulations in the preservation and acquisition of relevant knowledge and in the development of a self-narrative which supports agency.
- Provide strong theoretical reasons to challenge the perceived discontinuity between normal and abnormal cognition and show that a demarcation between normal and pathological cannot be meaningfully based on the epistemic features of delusions, memory distortions and confabulations.
Project PERFECT is compliant with the BPA/SWIP Good Practice Scheme and has policies and procedures in place that encourage the representation of women in philosophy.
In November 2015 Dr Michael Larkin, Professor Lisa Bortolotti, and Dr Ema Sullivan-Bissett were featured in the Birmingham Heroes Campaign on research that matters. Posters, banners, and web content focussed on PERFECT's aim to challenge the stigma associated with mental illness.