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2014 | 16 | 4 | 5–13

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Reflexive and automatic violence: a function of aberrant perceptual inhibition

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It is commonly assumed that psychiatric violence is motivated by delusions, but here the concept of a reversed impetus is explored, to understand whether delusions are formed as ad-hoc or post-hoc rationalizations of behaviour or in advance of the actus reus. The reflexive violence model proposes that perceptual stimuli has motivational power and this may trigger unwanted actions and hallucinations. The model is based on the theory of ecological perception, where opportunities enabled by an object are cues to act. As an apple triggers a desire to eat, a gun triggers a desire to shoot. These affordances (as they are called) are part of the perceptual apparatus, they allow the direct recognition of objects - and in emergencies they enable the fastest possible reactions. Even under normal circumstances, the presence of a weapon will trigger inhibited violent impulses. The presence of a victim will also, but under normal circumstances, these affordances don't become violent because negative action impulses are totally inhibited, whereas in psychotic illness, negative action impulses are treated as emergencies and bypass frontal inhibitory circuits. What would have been object recognition becomes a blind automatic action. A range of mental illnesses can cause inhibition to be bypassed. At its most innocuous, this causes both simple hallucinations (where the motivational power of an object is misattributed). But ecological perception may have the power to trigger serious violence also -a kind that's devoid of motives or planning and is often shrouded in amnesia or post-rational delusions.









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