Distortion of the generalization process - Pathopsychology

Distortion of the generalization process

The violation of the process of thinking, which we denoted as a distortion of the process of generalization, is, as it were, the antipode of what was just described.

If the judgments of the above-described patients do not go beyond the limits of private, single connections, then the patients about which we are about to speak now, departing from concrete connections is expressed in extremely exaggerated form. Patients in their judgments reflect only the accidental side of phenomena, the essential relations between objects are not taken into account, the substantive content of things and phenomena is often not taken into account. So, in carrying out the task of classifying objects, they are guided by excessively common signs, inadequate to the real relations between objects. For example, patient M. combines a fork, table and shovel according to the principle of "hardness"; a mushroom, a horse and a pencil he puts in one group on the "principle of the connection of the organic with the inorganic".

Similar tasks are described as empty or emasculated. Table 7 shows that they are most often found in patients with schizophrenia (in 67.1% of the patients examined), mainly in the hallucinatory-paranoid form of the disease course, and in psychopaths (33.3%).

Table 7

Mistakes of the form of formal, meaningless combinations in the task "classification of objects"


Number of examined patients

Number of patients who performed the task erroneously



107 (67.1) *



2 (4.0)

Vascular diseases of the brain





4 (2.4)






6 (20.0)

Progressive paralysis



Manic-depressive psychosis





10 (33.3)

* The number of erroneous decisions in parentheses is in %.

Such patients live in a world of their delusional experiences, are not very interested in the real situation, they are trying to approach insignificant, everyday phenomena from the "theoretical positions". In a conversation, they are able to address issues of a general nature, but are often unable to respond simply to a specific question. The speech of the patients is pretentious. So, for example, speaking of the cabinet, one such patient calls him "a limited part of the space", talking about a friend whom he characterized as a kind person, notices: "What is good and evil?"

This definition is relatively, positive and negative, like the question of electrons and the universe. Bad - this is a qualitative side, so you need a good one. But bad can go for good, opposites do not happen

In Table. 8 shows the most revealing examples of how such patients perform the task of classifying objects. They conduct it either on the basis of such common signs (hardness, movement) that go beyond the content side of phenomena, or on the basis of purely external, nonessential attributes (a hole).

Table 8

Examples of the assignment of the job classification of objects by type of formal, meaningless connections

Items grouped together into one group



Cabinet, saucepan

M. (schizophrenia, paranoid form)

Both items have a hole

A car, a spoon, a cart

Mr. (schizophrenia, paranoid form)

Spoon is also moved to the mouth

Beetle, shovel

Mr. (schizophrenia, paranoid form)

The spade is digging the earth, the beetle is also digging in the ground

Flower, spoon, spade

Dr. (schizophrenia)

These are all items that are lengthy

Goose, Piglet

K-in (psychopathy)

Goose pig is not a companion

Shovel, horse

Eh (schizophrenia, paranoid form)

Begins with the letter l

Hours, bicycle

M. (schizophrenia)

The clock measures time, and when riding a bike, the space is measured

Particularly distinctly meaningless, emasculated character of judgments of patients of a certain category is in the performance of the task of drawing a pictograph. So, one of the patients draws for the memorization of the words "warm wind" two triangles, to memorize the expression "cheerful dinner" - Two mugs. Another patient of this group to remember the word "doubt" depicts soma, for the word "separation" - onion.

For patients with a decrease in the level of generalization, the task of making a pictogram is difficult because they can not be distracted from individual concrete meanings of the word. The same task made it possible to identify another group of patients who perform it with greater ease, since they can form any connection, regardless of the content of the task assigned to them. The conditional nature of the drawing becomes so broad and pointless that it does not reflect the real content of the word; patients can, without hesitation, offer any scheme as a symbol for the word.

In Table. 9 shows the most typical examples of the fulfillment of this task by the type of meaningless, formal connections.

Table 9

Examples of the execution of icons by type of formal, meaningless connections

Words to remember


Drawings and explanations


M-in (schizophrenia)

Two arrows


Od-in (schizophrenia)

A rope. It can evolve


M-in (schizophrenia)



Eh (schizophrenia)

Fish Catfish


Sim-in (schizophrenia)

Clay clod.

"Glinka has a romance" Doubt, let there be clay "

The girl is cold

P-in (schizophrenia)

Two squares. Two words said

The girl is cold

K-in (schizophrenia)

Points and a triangle. Means snow ... let the triangle be a girl


K-in (schizophrenia)

Print. Starts on printer


JI-na (schizophrenia)

The stove.

Begins on

Table 10 shows that similar emasculated associations occur in patients with schizophrenia when performing pictograms (64%).

Table 10

Running the job compose thumbnails but the form of formal, meaningless connections




Total number of completed drawings

Number of empty drawings




960 (64.0) *




30 (8.6)

Vascular diseases of the brain



95 (9.0)




80 (5.7)










Manically -








99 (33.0)




1264 (25.4)

* The number of empty pictures in brackets is given in %.

The insubstantial nature of the mental activity of patients is also found in the associative experiment. Thus, an experiment conducted with 50 patients with schizophrenia showed that adequate responses were observed in 30.4% of cases (a total of 1,050 words were presented). Almost half of the answers (45.8%) consisted of echolalia responses ("wheel" - "chariot"), consonance responses ("cure" - "current", "ax" - "boron"), replies of the type of speech stamps ("fire" - the "Moscow fire", "the goal" - "the end justifies the means"). There were also answers like extrasignal ("moon" - "poison"). Response reactions, indicating a specific function of the object or its specific properties, occurred only in 11.4% of cases. As for refusals to respond (12.4%), they were not caused by difficulties, as was the case in the patients of the first subgroup (a decrease in the level of generalization), but mostly negativistic attitude to the task.

The predominance of formal, random associations, the departure from the content side of the task, create the basis for the fruitless wiserness that characterizes such patients and which is referred to in the clinic as "resonance".

This feature of the thinking of such patients is often found even with the simplest mental action - the description of the plot pictures. Patients do not understand their specific content, but perceive them in terms of general provisions. So, a picture of a woman stabbing firewood, one of these patients describes as follows: "A little theory about the assignment of living conditions". Another patient about the same picture says: "Here everything is taken for a person - this is called his life path"; the third patient explains: "This is a woman and her fate."

The symptom of emasculated resonance is particularly clear when performing tasks that require verbal formulations, for example, when defining and comparing concepts (Tables 11, 12).

This symptom is even more pronounced in the experience of the explanation of proverbs. The patient E. (more detailed information about him is given below) in a similar way defines the meaning of the proverb "Not everything is gold that glitters": Still I must say that it shines. This proverb is separate, or rather, it will soon become obsolete. There is a depreciation of gold as a metal, this is from a philosophical point of view. Essence is not in gold. It is possible that another metal, not so despicable as gold, shines and brings more benefit to man. A beam of light falling on the glass glitters, it can also benefit ... Well, there are all sorts of radios ... Well, in general, do not look at the person and his affairs from the purely external side. "

Although a transfer operation is available to the patient, his statements are only partially concerned with the definition of metaphorical meaning. Basically, the patient is reasoning about the subject under discussion, in this case about the "values" gold, about the socio-economic problem associated with gold ("gold - despicable metal", etc.).

Table 11

Examples of defining concepts by patients with distortion of the generalization process

Words proposed for definition




O-in (schizophrenia)

Mechanical object, kind of objectness or object of logic


A-in (schizophrenia)

"The pulse or pulse of the life of all humanity"


3-on (schizophrenia)

Is it measurable with respect to a certain property of matter, as it is called in philosophy? Attribute, whether that?


M-in (schizophrenia)

"This is a thing related to inanimate nature, it has an applied value for preserving other material particles"


A-in (schizophrenia)

Element of Life Conditions


D-na (schizophrenia)

"Utensil, this collection of atoms


A-in (schizophrenia)

A creature close to the relationship with people


K-i (psychopathy)

This is an animate subject, it is still necessary, although its technical progress is getting rid of it


K-n (schizophrenia)

"It's an animate subject, no, it's better to say, a phenomenon that helps a person"

Table 12

Examples of comparing concepts to patients with a distortion of the generalization process

Words to compare


Statements of patients

Rain and snow

A-in (schizophrenia)

Humidity items are distinguished by the displacement of certain substances with respect to the circumference of the Earth

Cheating and Error

A-in (schizophrenia)

"The ratio of the lifetime of all mankind, the rejection of particles of inanimate substances, and mistakes - the inexpediency of development in relation to life on Earth"

Cheating and Error

K-n (schizophrenia)

Deception is immoral behavior, ugliness about production, and error is also ugliness, but permissive. It must be corrected, and then this is a non-casual attitude to life

Sledges and cart

A-in (schizophrenia)

Modifying visibility

Sledges and cart

P-in (schizophrenia)

These two words are grammatical from the point of view of grammar, but there are no sleighs in the singular, they do not say "san," and the cart is in the singular

Similar reasoning statements are obviously caused by different reasons. On the one hand, the word appears for the patient in different meanings; selection of a meaning appropriate for a given particular situation does not occur. On the other hand, the very task posed to the patient (in this case, the attribution of phrases to proverbs) does not direct his thoughts, he proceeds from more general "principles".

Describing such disorders of thinking in patients with schizophrenia, FV Bassin uses for their designation the figurative expression of the "semantic tumor".

And. Pavel Pavlov repeatedly noted that the use of speech is an advantage of man, but that it also conceals the possibility of separation from reality, of going into a fruitless fantasy, if the word does not stand "nearest" conductors of reality. The logic of the flow of thoughts must be controlled by practice, in a figurative expression of IP Pavlov, "Mrs. reality." Because of the lack of practice check, the mental activity of patients becomes inadequate, their judgments become, as IP Pavlov put it, into "mental chewing gum".

Perhaps, this explains the paradoxical fact that in such patients speech does not facilitate the task, but hinders it; Pronounced words are caused by new, often random associations, which patients do not retard. Having performed the task correctly in the real operation, the patients talk about it ridiculously.

This fact manifests itself in an experiment on the attribution of phrases to proverbs and metaphors; patients often choose an adequate phrase, but at the same time utterly pointlessly explain their choice and after an explanation cancel their correct implementation.

Thus, when performing experimental tasks, patients bring together any relationship between objects and phenomena, even if they are not adequate to specific life facts. Real differences and similarities between objects are not taken into account by patients, do not serve as a control and verification of their judgments and actions and are replaced by purely verbal, formal connections.

To illustrate the statements made by us, here are a few excerpts from the case histories and protocol data of the patients of the subgroup under analysis.

Patient P. (doctor Gogoleva), born in 1927. Diagnosis: schizophrenia.

Until 1951 he was practically healthy. Rose and developed normally. I studied well at school and institute. In 1950 he graduated from GITIS. Soon he began to tell at home that at work, "he was being poisoned", some people followed him. He became aggressive. He was hospitalized in the hospital by P. B. Gannushkina.

Mental status. On admission, it's targeted. Vyal. At times he talks to himself, makes gestures and laughs absurdly. Sometimes foolish, manners, grimaces. At times he is agitated, aggressive, demands that his disable from the radio network; says that "his head is turned into a grandiose receiving-transfer station" that "the surrounding know his thoughts".

See some unclear dreams in reality. He speaks extremely reluctantly about his experiences. Grub, vicious, tense. He treats his condition without criticism.

In the experience on the classification of objects, the patient combines cards as follows:

Skier and pig; explains: "This means the opposite of winter and summer; winter is a boy on skis, and a pig is on greens. "

Pencil and goat - Both pictures are drawn with a pencil

Airplane and tree - "This is heaven and earth."

Cat, table and plum - "The cat on the table and the sink is also on the table."

Notebook, sofa, book - On the couch you can practice. "

Clock, bicycle - "The clock measures time; when riding a bike - also measured space. "

Fork, shovel, table - "These are all hard objects, they are not easy to break."

Casserole, cupboard - There are holes here. "

To the experimenter's question: Or maybe you can expand it in a different way? the patient responds in the affirmative, destroys the previous groups, puts together a bush, a pot, a goat, explaining: "Everything starts with the letter" to ".

No less peculiar is the way the patients are given the task of excluding the excess object. So, when examining a card on which three kinds of clocks and a coin are painted, the patient states: "There is nothing unsuitable, it needs to be clarified. If you take the first card, then everyone has a measure of divisibility - they have an "improper" not at all. Each object serves to perform certain functions. If we take a coin, it serves as a measure of divisibility, it is a common measurement of something accepted in the human mind. The coin determines the value of human labor, the hours determine the longitude ". If necessary, highlight an unsuitable item in the group "hours, scales, glasses, thermometer the patient declares: "After all, from a philosophical point of view everything is transitory. The clock indicates the acceleration of time, the fact that everything is flowing, all in motion - they should be selected .

When performing a task to define a concept, the patient determines the word table as follows: "The table is the name directly hostel. Objects with respect to each other will be considered as if dead. Compared with nature, we can say that it is made of wood, and the tree grows, it exists in nature. Here it is ruined and non-existent, standing by an indefinite subject, it means both quality and quantity. " By this definition, the patient is limited, and, in addition to the fact that the "table is a dead object" and the arguments about the "ruined tree", he does not say anything essentially about the subject that defines.

The associative experiment reveals a large number of stamping responses ("fire" - "the fire in Moscow was flickering"; deception - "contempt").

Patient E. (doctor G. Ya. Avrutsky), born in 1928. The patient developed a healthy child. He was very closed, he did not participate in children's games, he was always capricious. He went to school at the age of 8, studied perfectly. From the age of 12-13 years, he became even more withdrawn, he did not tolerate the society of people. During the war he lived in evacuation in difficult everyday conditions. Upon his return to Moscow in 1945, he attracted the attention of his relatives: he was very closed, silent, shy, irritable. Enrolled in the railway technical school, but could not study, despite great efforts.

Neurological condition: without deviation from the norm.

Mental state. The patient is properly oriented in the place, time, environment. A bit cheeky, self-assured. Movement sharp, angular, impetuous. During the conversation, the person does not look in the person's face. Easily comes into conflict, answers all questions freely, without delay. The speech is fast in pace, well-formed, rich in shades, smooth transitions, well-modulated. Mimicry is adequate. Staying in the hospital does not bother, does not remember relatives, says he does not feel affection for them. In the office is not busy.

In the experience on the classification of objects, the patient begins to sort correctly the objects on the basis of an adequate attribute (people, animals, plants), but suddenly stops and declares: "But this is me without an aspect, this is philistine division, blind, and yet these are the same creatures, with specific features. It is necessary to look at the actor's perspective from the viewpoint of the actor, according to the principle of filming, they need to look at each other ... The bear can see a bug, the elephant is a horse, but he will not see the fish, but the fish can swim to see it. Although, it seems, the eyes of the fish are differently arranged ... How is it called in zoology? The patient argues about the objects from the point of view of the photography .

The experimenter asks to find another principle of division. The patient says: "It is possible and so to make - to approach from the point of view of the philosophical, from the point of view of transformation of an inanimate matter into a living one. Things are a product of human labor. People, animals, plants - a product of nature ... Or it is more correct to put everything in one group - all this is nature. "

In the experience of indirect memory (drawing up pictograms), the patient forms the following links: for memorizing the expression "cheerful holiday" draws a flag, for the word development - two points, large and small, for the expression "hard work" draws a circle ("This flight into the stratosphere is a difficult business"). Bold Act long discusses: "What is courage?" This is not the same as bravery; brave people think about their actions, and courageous ... The patient thinks and stops performing the task. When presenting the expression merry dinner the patient says: "Dinner is the absorption of inorganic matter by an organic being; although food is organic matter & quot ;. Draws circles and an arrow: "Circles are matter, and an arrow is the transition of one kind of matter to another." The patient interrupts his reasoning: "Well, if you come from the point of view of acting, you need a delicious dinner only to symbolically represent."

To remember the words warm wind the patient draws two quadrangles and a triangle, explaining: "These are two concepts: the adjective and the noun. Of course, from the director's point of view, I would have to portray something else, but I can not do it. "

In the experience of explaining the meaning of the proverbs, the patient easily and correctly copes with the task, gives correct examples, but in the version of this experiment where he has to select phrases for proverbs, he makes mistakes. So, to the proverb Not all that gold that glitters (the meaning of which the patient correctly explains) he refers the phrase "Gold is heavier than iron," explaining: "By the principle of negation: the proverb denies the value of another shiny metal, the second phrase negates the comparison of the gravity of gold and iron."

The associative experiment reveals a combination of adequate responses to responses such as conventional speech patterns ("drop" - "from the pedestal," "moon" - "like this silly moon").

The above experimental data show that the thinking of the patients of the subgroup described is dominated by verbal and logical connections that are not directly controlled by data, concrete relationships, and are not based on sensory representations. Patients can assimilate tasks that require generalizations, they were able to isolate a common trait, to digress from specific meanings of words, but that temporary "departure" from concrete values, which is inherent in any generalization, acquired from them an exaggerated, sometimes grotesque character.

Not only individual details, but also more significant relationships, recede into the background, all the diverse, concrete, and full-blooded connections are not taken into account. Thinking patient does not adequately reflect the specific content of things and phenomena.

On the violation of thinking in patients with schizophrenia, Vygotsky wrote [51]. On the basis of his experimental studies, he suggested that they have a disintegration of the function of the formation of concepts - the last decrease to level complexes, i.e. specific meaning, and that this is based on changing the meaning of words.

Agreeing with LS Vygotsky that in patients with schizophrenia there can often be a change in the meaning of words, we want to develop this position, since in these cases it is a question of reducing concepts to the level of complexes. After all, the complex, in the understanding of LS Vygotsky, means the generalization of phenomena on the basis of concrete connections, concrete representations. But, as our experiments showed, this only occurs in a very limited part of schizophrenics. In most cases, the disruption of the generalization process occurs not because the patients operate on specific connections, but on the contrary, because their thinking is dominated, as we said above, by links that are adequate to specific relationships. In our works [62], GV Birenbaum [34] points out that the violation of concepts in patients with schizophrenia is of a peculiar nature. Even when their judgments are specific, they not only reflect specific relationships between phenomena or objects, but rather signify the convergence, condensation of individual random aspects of objects and phenomena. (We then designated this fact as "lability, undifferentiated structure of the word.") This rapprochement occurs not only because of the violation of concepts, but also because the patients lose focus on the objective content of the task, because they often perform the task set before them task (not only experimental, but also vital), proceeding from special attitudes, often inadequate in relation to this situation. In other words, the patient's reasoning judgments are determined not so much by the violation of his concepts as by the desire to bring any insignificant phenomenon under a certain "concept."

We described this phenomenon in Ch. 5; here we emphasize that we tend to denote this violation not as a breakdown of concepts, but as a distortion of the process of generalization.

Summarizing, we can say that a single process of reflection is distorted as if from two sides. If the content of the associations of the patients of the first subgroup ( reduction of the level of generalization ) does not go beyond the limits of particular, single links, if the direct impressions obtained by them are not synthesized and the verbal and logical connections do not have a dominant significance , then in patients of the second subgroup ( distortion of the generalization process ), the opposite happens: the verbal and logical connections are based on specific properties and attributes of objects and phenomena. If for the thinking of the first group of patients the narrow range of links, the poverty of associations is characteristic, then a very large number of associations are characteristic for the thinking of these patients, but associations of non-directional, random, and, most importantly, reflecting only extremely general relationships.

And in both cases of violation of the processes of generalization, the word is not an instrument of generalization. If in the nervous case the patients' speech reflects only minor details, then in the second case it reaches the level of a meaningless abstraction.

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