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Department of Cognitive Science

Belief Formation Research Group

The Belief Formation Research Group incorporates a group of researchers within the Department of Cognitive Science, and their collaborators, investigating the cognitive and brain systems underlying our ability to formulate and test beliefs about the world. We focus primarily on disorders of belief formation, such as delusion, and related symptoms, such as hallucinations, as well as the consequences of these symptoms for patients’ daily living. Our approach to delusional belief is based on the ‘two-factor’ account that has been developed over the past decade by Coltheart, Langdon and colleagues. According to this account, for delusional beliefs to arise, the delusional person must be suffering from two distinct impairments. The first is an impairment of perceptual or other cognitive processing which leads to the delusional idea first occurring to the person. The second is an impairment of the belief evaluation process which we normally use to reject bizarre or unsubstantiated ideas, but which the deluded person fails to do. One stream of our research program involves identifying the different 'first factors' that cause different delusional themes. Another stream of our research involves evaluating and testing the two-factor theory against other approaches. This work includes developing a better understanding of the second factor that disrupts normal belief evaluation and identifying the brain regions that normally sustain this ability. Our cognitive theory of delusional belief applies to all delusions regardless of aetiology. This is why we study delusions in a range of conditions, such as schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, delusional disorder, head injury, and dementia, and try to better understand the impact of delusions and related impairments in these conditions. Our theory also suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy is an effective treatment for delusional belief and other related psychiatric symptoms, such as hallucinations. So in a third line of research we are collaborating with practitioners of this form of therapy, and with clinicians who use cognitive remediation, in the design, execution and evaluation of psychological treatments for different psychiatric symptoms.

The Belief Formation Research Group also has links with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders (CCD), and in particular the CCD's Belief Formation Program.

Current Research Participation Opportunities


Research Group Leaders

Current Researchers

Current Students

Current External Associates