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Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness

"Suspicious MInds: How Culture Shapes Madness" by Dr. Joel Gold and Ian Gold.

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What if you woke up with the alarming suspicion that you were being watched? The premise for “Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness,” written by psychiatrist Dr. Joel Gold and his brother Ian Gold, a philosopher and psychologist, is rooted in a newly-common psychological issue they call the Truman Show Delusion.

The nickname for the delusion is based on “The Truman Show,” a film starring Jim Carrey as the titular character -- a man who was unknowingly raised as the subject of a television show, living amongst actors, his whole world controlled by the show’s creator. In recent years, many people have experienced delusions revolving around a similar idea: that the patient is the subject of a reality TV show, that everyone around them is watching them, that their lives are controlled by producers.

Delusions and hallucinations have changed over time. People with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses that cause delusions and hallucinations have, over the decades, recounted feeling as if they were being controlled by Japanese radio waves, Soviet satellites, and CIA microchips. The Golds argue that delusions are the product of interactions between the human brain and sociocultural influences.

How have delusions changed over time? What does the Truman Show Delusion say about our culture?


Joel Gold, M.D., co-author of “Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness,” (Simon & Schuster, 2014), clinical associate professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and was an attending psychiatrist in the department of psychiatry at Bellevue Hospital Center