Sunday, May 22, 2005

Impaired Metacognition: Part II

Today, my family were invited to a function discussing the relationship among the States, Taiwan, and China in Flushing.

During the day time, I was all focused on listening to the speakers, not at all distracted.

What do I mean by not getting distracted? At some point, one of the speakers used the expression “the tunnel” and “barking at the wrong tree.” Those are two of the expressions I used in the previous postings. Even though I know they are common expressions in everyday English, I could not help but think, “Was he making references to me?” However, I was able to refocus on the talk and not engage in further deliberation about the given matter.

As it approaches the dinner time, my imagination (or, more specifically, my unconscious imagination) started to go wild.

The longer I sat down at the dinner table, the stronger the sense I got about the possibility that people were talking about me and my stories. When people in the far away table were engaging in their conversations and enjoying the festivity, yours truly could not stop to feel that I was the center of their conversation.

I was cognitively aware of the irrationality in my perceptions. I tried to control the build up of my irrational thoughts. However, I was loosing control over the delusions of references that were popping up left and right.

Granted, some people were looking at me, at the dining table or on the street. The perception that people were looking at me does not, in and out itself, constitute delusional experiences. What makes the experiences delusional is the bias with which my perceptions are interpreted.

When most people perceive that other people were looking at them, competing hypotheses would be generated to explain the given perception. Following are some examples of the plausible hypotheses based on my naïve theory of human mind:
People look at me because--
I am cute and they are attracted to me
My top is too flashy
I have something on my face—food or someone’s lipstick.
Most of the times, these would be the dominant hypotheses used to explain the perception that other people were checking me out, provided that the perception is valid.

Or, I should say that these are the hypotheses I could think of when I am “normalized” (lol).

However, despite of my awareness of the aforementioned alternative hypotheses, my state of mind makes it impossible for me to reject the null hypothesis that people checked me out because they knew about my stories and they were talking about me. Of course, auditory hallucinations make it even harder for me to reject the null hypotheses (Guess this is the story of my life, reenactment of the results of my dissertation lol).

Where am I going with these BS?

As I mentioned before, it is assumed that metacognition is comprised of the monitoring and controlling components. Moreover, it has been suggested that impairment in metacognition might have contributed to the occurence of delusions.

When referring back to the above scenario, it seems that my self-monitoring capacity remained intact—
I am aware of the irrationality in my interpretation of the events
I am aware of the competing hypotheses that could be used to explain my perception
I am aware of my bias towards the null hypothesis
I am aware of my own inability to make adjustment to my biased modus "interpretation"
I am aware that some of the things I hear are actually auditory hallucinations
So, where did I go wrong?

If the metacognitive model holds true, I would say that what went wrong was my ability to perform self-control, rather than self-monitoring.

For me, self-monitoring concerns one’s ability to observe one’s own state of being. In other words, it is at the perceptual level and it requires analytical skills.

On the other hand, the so-to-speak breakdown in the self-controlling mechanism is manifested in one’s inability to make appropriate adjustment to one’s interpretation about events, provided one’s self-monitoring capacity remained intact.
In plain English, I might agree with the notion that there is some impairment in the controlling component of the metacognitive model when I can not change how I interpret my experiences despite of my awareness of the biases and irrationality in my frame of references.

However, is this really impairment in my metacognition?

I don’t really think so. But, of course, that is but my really tired and loco interpretation.

Referencing back to the classic cognitive theories, we would find that one’s past, to a certain degree, dictates one’s modus operandi in the present. It is because one’s past resides in one’s long term memory in forms such as schema, scripts, mental models, and patterns of attribution.
As people continue to interact with the environment while referencing to their long term memory, the environmental effects make it inevitable for people within similar environments to become more alike and people in different environment to move along differential developmental tracks. Cross-cultural differences exemplify the outcomes of the simultaneous process of diverging and converging at the macro-level.

At the same time, as I have elaborated in previous postings, just like Rome, delusions are not built in one day. At the micro-level, s time goes on, it is inevitable for the delusional to develop a propensity to attribute observations in a way that is deviated from the norm. As a result, provided with the same environmental cues, delusionals might gradually develop a pattern in attending and interpreting environmental inputs that is different from that of a normal person.

In other words, both the normal person and the delusional are capable of performing metacognitive tasks, namely, self-monitoring and self-controlling.

However, a context is required for one to exercise his or her metacognitive skills and the context contains both the environmental inputs and one’s past experiences. Given the same environmental inputs, provided adequate ability capability of performing metacognitive tasks for both the delusional and the normal person, I feel it should be one’s past experiences that result in differential experiences, rather than the impaired metacognition.

Of course, my analysis might not be applicable for all delusional cases. For instance, when a delusional is extremely distracted by hallucinations, the distraction might result in the reduced amount of cognitive capacity that could be allocated to perform metacognitive tasks.
Disclaimer: I am not responsible for the plausibility of instilling falsified beliefs through my writing since my analyses have been based on data gathered from myself N=1.

No comments: