Science Book a Day Interviews Ian and Joel Gold


Special thanks to Ian and Joel Gold for answering 5 questions about their recently featured book – Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness

Ian Gold is the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy and Psychiatry at McGill University. He earned a BA and MA in philosophy from McGill University and a PhD in philosophy from Princeton University. – Adapted from Simon & Schuster Canada

Joel Gold is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. He evaluates and treats adults in his private practice in Manhattan. Dr. Gold practices both psychotherapy and medication management. – Adapted from Joel’s Homepage

Joel’s Homepage:
Ian & Joel’s Twitter:

#1 – What was the impetus for Suspicious Minds?

Joel saw five patients around 2002 (and thereafter) who believed they were being filmed and the films were being broadcast. Three of the five said that their lives were like the “Truman SHow.” We wondered about what role popular culture had on delusional thinking and discovered that there was a lot less in the psychiatric literature on that topic than one might think (despite there being a huge and vibrant lit on culture and psychiatric illness more generally). We started to think about the topic and wound up developing a theory to answer our question.

#2 – Is the idea that delusions serve a protective function a new idea? And if not, why has it taken such a long time to emerge?

There is a view around that (some) delusions serve a protective function, but that is not our view. Our view is that the cognitive system — that produces delusions *when it is malfunctioning* — is protective, its purpose to detect social threats.

#3 – Your book talks about the Truman Show Delusion. In what ways has this delusion been seen in society prior to our ‘love affair’ with reality tv?

On our view, the TSD is a variant of a delusion of control — the belief that other people are manipulating one’s actions. In the past, a delusion of control might be expressed in the belief that someone is using a magnetic machine to manipulate the patient’s body. Our idea is that in contemporary culture, it is information about people that allows one to control them. So the TSD is a delusion of control in the age of surveillance.

#4 – How did the two of you write this book together? How has each of your backgrounds assisted you in the writing of the book?

Slowly! It was a first for both of us. We each drafted different parts — with Joel naturally focussing more on the clinical material — and then sent the drafts back and forth. As is the case with lots of first-time authors, it took us a long time to decide on a structure that we were really happy with. Although we disagreed a lot, we mostly had a lot of fun and developed a deep sense of comradery in the process.

#5 – Are you working on any new projects/books you can tell us about?

At the moment, I’m thinking about writing a book on a delusional syndrome called Jerusalem Syndrome — a disorder in which some visitors to Jerusalem (of various faiths) develop religious delusions. Joel will probably be working on that with me, but he doesn’t know it yet.


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