All (Genuine) Mental Disorders Involve Systematic Misrepresentation of Value: Mental Illness from a Neuroeconomic Point of View

Dr. Chandra Sripada

A standard view is that mental disorders involve inappropriate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. But what exactly justifies labeling elements of a person’s mental life as inappropriate or dysfunctional? In this talk, I offer a novel answer. The last two decades have witnessed a neuroeconomic revolution in cognitive neuroscience. There is now strong support for models in which thoughts, feelings, and behaviors arise from, or are otherwise intimately connected with, value representations, representations of the goodness or badness of actions or states with respect to one’s more basic goals and aims. I will argue that the hallmark of all (genuine) mental disorders is that these value representations are systematically and significantly inaccurate. This “misvaluation view” offers a principled and defensible normative foundation for psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. It also addresses a number of other puzzles at the heart of the philosophy of psychiatry.