False, illogical thinking found particularly in schizophrenic reactionsParalogical thinking may take many forms. A patient who is preoccupied with his own subjective thoughts and fantasies may give answers to questions that are either wrong or beside the point. His interests and attention are narrowed to a point where his thinking becomes restricted and unrealistic. Here is an example: “Is something weighing heavily on your mind?” “Yes, iron is heavy” (Bleuler, 1911). Some patients draw false inferences to protect themselves from the truth. In one case a schizophrenic patient learned that his girl friend, with whom he had never had intercourse, had become pregnant. He immediately concluded that the conception was immaculate, that the girl was the Virgin Mary, and that he himself was God.Paralogia may also take the form of distorting reality to conform to personal desires or delusional ideas. If a nurse smiles at a schizophrenic patient it may be enough to convince him that she is his mistress. If a paranoid patient sees two people looking his way while conversing, he is apt to conclude that they are talking about him; if he hears a bell ringing he may believe it is summoning him to Judgment.A special kind of paralogical thinking is sometimes found among prisoners awaiting trial. When they are asked questions of any kind, some of them give false or illogical answers even though they seem to know better. This tendency may stem from an unconscious desire to prove that they are too stupid to be held responsible for their criminal behavior. Paralogical thinking is sometimes described as prelogical or paleological thinking, since the thought processes are similar to those found in children and primitive man. On this theory it represents a regression to the stage in human development when the mind was dominated by feeling and perception rather than by logic and reasoning. One of the major characteristics of such primitive thinking is concreteness. Like a small child, the schizophrenic has difficulty with abstract concepts—for example, if he is asked to give the meaning of the proverb “A new broom sweeps clean,” he will say something like “No, it doesn’t because the bristles are stiff.” A second characteristic is its fallacious, dreamlike logic. In his study of schizophrenic thinking, Bleuler (1911) cited a patient who was convinced that he was Switzerland. Such a thought could not even be entertained by the normal mind—but this patient’s thinking followed the line, “Switzerland loves freedom. I love freedom. I am Switzerland.”

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "PARALOGICAL THINKING," in, November 28, 2018, (accessed February 6, 2023).


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