We often explore mutation load as a genetic concept, but might we also be able to frame it as a memetic concept as well? Divergent thought could be viewed as memetic mutation. This essay will explore how genetic and memetic mutations raise the probability for social defeat and ultimately lead into the social defeat hypothesis of schizophrenia. In some sense, memes can be viewed as software genes, much more malleable, programmable, and they mutate and replicate much faster than genes. Creativity and the distinction between manic disorder and schizophrenia are explored as well. These two mental archetypes seem highly distinct from each other, despite commonly being lumped together as if subtle variations of the same condition.
This is an expansion of the dynorphin hypothesis of schizophrenia, focused mostly on the social defeat elements of the concept. For the sake of brevity and in respect of those who’ve already read the theory, I won’t go excessively into it. Instead I will provide a short recap. Dynorphin may help explain how trauma, drugs, social defeat, and stress contribute as risk factors for schizophrenia. Dynorphin is an endogenous form of the hallucinogenic drug Salvia Divinorum. The social defeat model poses that those who are fringe, bullied, outcast, and rejected may experience a situation that is comparable to the quality of life of solitary confinement, which has been shown to induce many, or even all symptoms of schizophrenia. The hypothesis combines research from the dopamine, glutamate, KYNA, and social defeat hypotheses, among many other correlates in the research on schizophrenia. To read the entire hypothesis with its’ 100+ citations, check out Dynorphin Theory.
The idea began as I read through Scott Alexander’s take on his blog SlateStarCodex in a post titled: Book Review: Evolutionary Psychopathology, which reported that schizophrenia and other mental health disorders are linked to higher mutational load. Mutational load is the decrease in fitness that accompanies high amounts of deleterious mutations. Mutations can lead to genetic diseases or benefits, but they tend to be negative more often than positive. This means that higher mutation rates should lead to increased mutational load. People with higher mutational load often have increased diversity of traits such as facial or other asymmetries. High mutational load is a social defeat risk factor, which is an element of one’s reproductive fitness as well. Those who have higher mutational load essentially have higher freakiness and lower relatability. For example, it is reported that facial asymmetry is related to higher mutational load and is also associated to schizophrenia. The disorder is also associated to cerebral asymmetry as well. People like to relate to each other, it is validating, safe, comforting. Those with mutational load are essentially less compatible to the rest of society. Those who conflict with the world of consensus will be omitted from support systems of the society, thus more likely to be alone.
In Pandemic Xenophobia, we explore how kin selection promotes homogeneity, both genetic and probably also memetic similarity. Kin selection helps explain how self-sacrifice, or altruism, could evolve, despite altruism appearing to promote self-extinction while boosting the fitness of other organisms instead. The basic idea behind kin selection is that helping other organisms who share the same set of genes as you, can select for the genes that promote altruism. Next, since similarity to another provides the most benefits from altruism, this provides selection pressure for genetic similarity, or as W.D. Hamilton put it: relatability, which results in a slow progression to homogeneity. This is observed in hyper-altruistic species such as the naked mole rat, which turns out to be a highly inbred, almost clone-like species. Species like the naked mole rat or even ants have become altruistic enough that most of their colonies are comprised of individuals that do not even breed themselves.
There is evidence for a trend of a decreasing genetic diversity among humans throughout history. It may have been near extinction events or bottlenecks that initially drove a decrease of genetic diversity and as social benefits from social cohesion of this increasing genetic similarity emerge, the gene pool may continue to shrink due to the dynamics of kin selection that puts selection pressure on homogeneity.
Twins have been colloquially labeled as near-telepathic in their empathic bond with each other. While there may be no magic here, this tendency could be a product of how altruism maximizes in situations of homogeneity. This has been demonstrated in some research, exploring how monozygotic twins tend to be more aggressively altruistic with each other than dizygotic twins. One study noted that the gender mattered more than mono- versus dizygosity, which suggests that it is mostly about perceived relatability, possibly indicating we only have a vague sense of relatability to others. It may strongly depend on low-conflict and cohesion among people, which may increase with genetic dissimilarity.
The trend for hyper-altruism to edge closer to twinness is observed in naked mole rats, who have a higher relatedness coefficient than siblings (0.5) coming in at 0.81. This is quite incredible because they are coming closer to the relatedness coefficient of identical twins, which is 1.0. The implication of this is that naked mole rats within a colony are more related to each other than siblings generally are. Not only this, but they are even closer to being identical twins than they are to being siblings.
One problem though: the naked mole rats are extremely xenophobic. Their evolution towards homogeneity may have involved a tendency to push out those who were dissimilar. Perhaps they were mutated freaks, or Xenotypes. This isn’t the only reason to evolve xenophobia, but pandemics put pressure on keeping foreigners of a colony out because of the major risk for shared vulnerabilities to viruses or pathogens due to high relatedness. This is the idea explored in Pandemic Xenophobia, but for now we will move on.
This bias of our species to be altruistic towards those who we relate to essentially excludes those with higher mutational load. This higher mutational load is a kind of heterogeneity. They are the losing side of kin selection and they experience madness and suffering due to this. The social defeat theory is a story told by those who are denied access to the cultural system of altruism. Kin selection selects against mutational load by selecting for homogeneity. On the other hand, a constantly evolving and diverse environment might promote selection for increased mutation rate because those with higher mutation rates may be the ones who are more likely to have a beneficial mutation that survives the environment.
In Xenotypy, we explored a similar dynamic, with focuses on links of mental illness and Neanderthal associated DNA. Neanderthals seemed to live in smaller group sizes, ultimately living less social lives. Some researchers have noted that autism-linked genes are associated to Neanderthal DNA and they are actively being selected out of our gene pool, meanwhile prosocial genes are being selected for.
Being different may be good or bad for a species. Being different can ostracize one and poses many other risks as well. This might even make instinctual sense, because mutations are generally bad and rarely beneficial. But what about memetics?
MANIC: From idea, to idea, to idea.
Divergant thinking (DT) is associated to schizotypy and bipolarity positively but schizophrenia negatively. To explain this, it could make sense that schizotypy is the natural state whereas schizophrenia is post-traumatic sickness that results from a ruined schizotypal. In relation to divergent thinking, this narrative fits with the conspiracy theory tendency of the schizophrenic. Radical ideas such as conspiracy theories seem obviously divergent, but after being mocked and teased they may lose their flexibility and plasticity to change their beliefs. As they identify with these radical belief systems and the baggage that comes with it (socially defeated identity), they may grow progressively sicker and have decreased DT.
DT can be viewed as an enhanced cognitive-cultural mutation, or more simply: memetic mutation rate. Divergant thoughts are cognitive mutations, which become memes for society. In the same way that genetic mutations promote evolution, so does memetic mutation promote cultural evolution. The dark side of this is that mutations can be good or bad, and so can thoughts. Those who are socially ruined because of their contribution to the meme-pool become schizophrenically sick, some of them at least. Others may become popular or maintain a manic tendency. For those who experience memetic success, their DT is rewarded and reinforced. For those who experience failure, their DT is punished and shamed, resulting in social trauma and extinction of their DT.
This is similar to the concept of discipline and cohesion in British politics, which is the notion that the Prime Minister is constantly kept in check by the threat of being ejected (discipline) and is driven to conform to the public’s desires (cohesion). There is an expectation for conformity and agreeability from social groups (cohesion) and those who do not conform to the public narratives will be socially punished or excluded from social interaction (discipline). Discpline and cohesion are the selection mechanism for the evolution memes. Those who are too different from popular phenotypes may be left at the curb-side of society’s altruism systems. This may result in psychiatric problems and a kind of ‘solitary confinement’ kind of lifestyle that produces schizophrenic symptoms. The schizophrenic’s mind may become disciplined to lose their DT.
Sidenote: This idea becomes more fascinating when you consider how politics really are memes. There is a culture war against flat earth theory and vaccines. Violent wars are driven by memetics as well.
Those who become traumatized or socially aversive may retreat away from humanity and invest their time learning alternative streams of information. This may be how autistic special interests develop, where the individual may neglect social development in favor of their special interest. This reduces the aversive social experience while replacing social reward with an alternative reward. This may also be how savantism occurs, as the childhood critical period may allow special abilities and skills to develop around the individual’s special interests. As the meme goes: start them early.
The schizophrenic may experience a similar social retreating but after the childhood critical period, perhaps making it even more difficult to recover, due to the lack of the critical period. It may not even necessarily relate to the timing of social retreat, but perhaps the schizophrenic more often involves a traumatic entry point to their social withdrawal. Since trauma has been shown to inhibit cognitive ability and decrease IQ, it could be that the special interests of the schizophrenic are more likely to be absurd, or even fear-centric, such as conspiracy theories. The idea of stress inhibiting developmental paths has been explored in Trauma Traps. In support of this, childhood onset schizophrenia typically reveals worse outcomes compared to adult onset schizophrenia.
The social defeat model has been explored throughout this blog, especially in the essay Delusion, which argues that the concept of delusion is flawed, that it represents deviance from cultural beliefs and that there is no real ‘truth’ that we have attained about the outside world. There are indeed better or worse ideas, which education may shape, but to diagnose an uneducated and silly idea as a mental health problem seems problematic. Of course, a lack of education isn’t the only reason someone might have deviations from culture and most people do not actively deviate or create novel interpretations of the world, instead most submit to a dogmatic perspective on the data, for which society cohesively submits to. Divergent thinking may initially guide one away from popular narratives and into deviant territory that leads to social disciplinary action, rejection, and isolation for the individual.
Those who believe in such unpopular opinions as flat-earth theory will be more at-risk for becoming alone. Those who are alone will struggle to assimilate to a culture in which they have restricted access to. There is simply nothing to assimilate to in their world, it is socially and culturally deprived. This would promote further deviation in the individual’s information pool because they are not acquiring information from popular culture or peers, but probably continuing down the only path they’ve known yet, the one that led to their isolation in the first place. This leads one into a state of social defeat.
At this point, it’s worth noting that there is a social defeat hypothesis of schizophrenia. It was posited after noticing that stigmatized and less fortunate demographics had higher rates of schizophrenia. Clearly, transgenders are a stigmatized group which fits into this hypothesis well, also aiding in making sense of their immunity to illusions.
Note: Did you know that solitary confinement is considered traumatic and produces nearly all symptoms of schizophrenia? Even the known genetic correlates that show up in GWAS are for loneliness and trauma sensitivity and solitary confinement is debated to be cruel and unusual punishment, i.e. traumatic treatment.
Furthermore, dynorphin mediates the effects of social defeat stress and upregulates from early childhood social isolation, both satisfying the social defeat theory of schizophrenia. The link between social defeat and schizophrenia may represent how crucial social support is for dealing with symptoms of stress, potentially from any cause. If you are widely persecuted, it is likely an even worse stressor than many others because not only can you not get social support, but you have social threat and offense.
Schizophrenic symptoms have been found to associate with social patterns throughout the literature. Experimentally-induced social threat was found to bring on paranoia. The severity of symptoms in schizophrenia correlates with a lack of friends. Frequent interactions with friends was found to be crucial to recovery in schizophrenia, more than the self-reported quality of friendships although this likely doesn’t mean that abusive friends are better than none. Reducing loneliness reduces paranoia while inducing loneliness increases paranoia.
On the contrary, those with bipolar disorder may be naturally suited to the lifestyle of memetic mutation. Unlike the schizophrenic, they have the tendency towards fearlessness, which comes in handy when one is faced with social defeat. They may hit a temporary rut phase after some kind of risk-taking and self-induced crisis, but their natural tendency towards recovering from stress may allow them to become fearless, creative, and manic again.
Manic Vs Schizophrenic
Before we continue onto creativity, let’s explore some distinctions between bipolar and schizophrenia. It was already noted earlier that the bipolar and schizotypal tend to score highly on divergent thinking, they also score high in creativity, meanwhile the schizophrenic scores low on both of these. It was mentioned that reinforcement and punishment may mold these differences in each of these mental archetypes. One thing that seems to attenuate reinforcement and punishment learnings is the psychedelic drug. Both addiction and trauma are the far ends of reward and aversion conditioning, of reinforcement and punishment, in a sense.
The psychedelic mechanisms may reset the conditioned responses to both learned fear and learned reward. This is shown in the literature where psychedelic drugs are being explored for both addiction and PTSD. In Psychedelics and Schizophrenia, I argued that psychedelia is mania:
Manic disorders could be understood as an extreme recovery and stress resilience tendency. While this may initially sound good, as hypomania/mania usually does, it can lead to a disinhibition and worryless-ness that becomes dangerous. We develop stress, aversion, and trauma in order to make us too ‘anhedonic’ towards certain high risk-taking reward seeking behaviors. Those who lack this and ultimately have too much stress resilience might engage in behaviors that everyone around them acknowledges as extremely stressful and scary. Hypersexuality, unsafe sex, spending savings, drug use and other potentially catastrophic behaviors. In a strange sense, society is more traumatized than the manic individual, thus behaving fearfully and hesitant towards risk due to prior bad experiences. Since those with manic disorders may have elevated mood recover, they may continue to behave in ways that elicit further traumatic and catastrophic experiences, bringing them back to depressive or psychotic states again. In the bipolar, psychotic states may be far more transient than with those who lean towards schizophrenia. The psychosis may manifest from trauma and catastrophe, but then one may become depressed, then slowly reach a stable mood, and eventually climax back to the elevated fearlessness that is mania. On the contrary, those with schizophrenia will often have poor mood recovery and remain depressed, anhedonic, psychotic, and traumatized.
We often lump mania and psychosis together, as they are both extreme states of minds. It seems this conflating may be analogous to the conflating of cannabis and psychedelics previously discussed. Despite having some overlap, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia show some opposing correlations in the research. For example, while low IQ correlates to schizophrenia, high IQ was associated to bipolar risk. Another study found that children with high IQ were more likely to be diagnosed as bipolar later in life, and manic severity correlated to IQ. High arithmetic ability revealed 12-fold increase risk of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Excellent school performance at age 16 was linked to a 4-fold increased risk of bipolar disorder. There is a candidate causal variant underlying both intelligence and bipolar risk that is currently under study. In a genome-wide association study, bipolar disorder was linked to cognitive enhancing variants, while schizophrenia was correlated to cognitive impairment variants. I’ve explored an intelligence theory of bipolar disorder in the post Xenotypy.
While cannabis seems to impair cognitive function in schizophrenics, it actually seems to increase cognitive function in bipolar disorder. One study found that schizophrenic, but not bipolar 1 disorder individuals had reduced hippocampal volume. During mania it was even found that hippocampal connectivity is increased, while schizophrenics have reduced connectivity. Prefrontal cortex glutamate is increased in mania, decreased in schizophrenia, and increased with psychedelics. Calcium channel and NMDAr antagonists were found to be anti-manic, while they can also induce psychotic symptoms. Lastly, while NMDAr enhancing drugs such as Theanine or glycine agonists were found to reduce psychosis, there are cases of mania induced by glycine/NMDAr enhancing drugs (cycloserine).
The real risk that comes along with psychedelics may be mania.
While the 5HT2a and 5HT1a receptor agonist CBD can be antipsychotic, it has been associated to first episode mania in a case report. Ayahuasca was found to induce a switch to mania in a bipolar individual. A bipolar physician dosed himself with DMT which resulted in manic-‘psychotic’ effects. A study found that urinary excretion of DMT in manic and schizophrenic individuals was higher than in psychotic-depressed individuals, who had normal levels of excretion. In these cases that mention manic and psychotic effects it is important to note that mania may involve many psychotic-like effects without being the same state as the schizophrenic dynorphinergic state. It is clear that psychedelics produce a ‘psychotic-like’ effect. The argument here is to distinguish manic and psychotic as two different ‘psychotic-like’ states. Decreased binding of 5HT2ar in schizophrenics is still a factor to consider with this study on urinary secretion of DMT.
It’s important to mention that psychedelics may not represent all or even a majority of sober mania cases, but instead representing some specific type of mania. Some of the effects of psychedelics don’t match up with mania, such as neurogenesis. Sober mania likely involves some amount of serotonin mechanisms but also other mechanisms as well, such as general monoamine activity and glutamate activity. Also the trend of mania may be more focused on dysfunction of inhibitory dynorphin signaling, rather than always psychedelic mechanisms. Psychedelics may induce a kind of stress-free hypomania, increased risk-taking, and openness.
SSRI drugs have been shown to induce mania. Bipolar is associated with enhanced signal transduction of 5HT2a receptors, enhancing calcium release. Mania often involves disinhibition and fearlessness. LSD was shown to reduce fear responses in the amygdala. As mentioned before, dynorphin/KOR agonism controls the gain on amygdalar fear circuitry. KOR agonists seem to be effective in treating mania. This study also notes the risk of psychotomimetic effects from KOR agonists, which none occurred in the manic patients and instead a successful reduction of mania was observed. Dynorphin mRNA was found to be reduced in the amygdala of bipolar disorder. To support these findings, schizophrenia is also associated with decreased risk-taking, whereas bipolar disorder is associated to genes that are related to risk-taking in a genome-wide association study.
Dynorphin and psychedelics relate to fear extinction. Fear extinction is impaired in schizophrenics. During fear extinction, KOR mRNA is found to be dramatically downregulated while fear conditioning shows a dramatic upregulation of KOR mRNA. Blocking dynorphin/KOR was found to block conditioned fear. DMT microdosing in mice was found to enhance fear extinction. Low doses of psilocybin were found to increase neurogenesis and enhance fear extinction. High doses appear to do the opposite. D-cycloserine was found to facilitate fear extinction and is studied for treatment of schizophrenia. There are studies on psychedelics (MDMA) exploring fear extinction in relevance to PTSD, which involves altered fear extinction like schizophrenia. During fear recognition tasks that measure amygdala response, schizophrenics show hyperactivation of the amygdala to both fearful and even neutral faces while with LSD users there is a reduced response of the amygdala.
It seems that serotonin and dynorphin function with opposing and interconnecting roles in resilience and stress. This interaction relationship between dynorphin and serotonin seems to occur at p38 MAPK, KOR signaling induces the serotonin transporter (SERT) to reuptake serotonin, producing a hypo-serotonergic state. This induction of SERT was necessary for dynorphin to produce some of its effects which may be due to the anti-dynorphin/KOR effects of 5HT2a receptors. Blocking SERT is known to produce stress resilience. The removal of p38 MAPK on serotonergic neurons also produces stress resilience, likely by disrupting dynorphin. Blocking dynorphin directly leads to stress resilience as well. Serotonin itself is known to downregulate SERT, so when dynorphin levels are high its’ induction of SERT will lower extracellular serotonin levels and prevent SERT from downregulating. This should be expected to perpetuate a stressed tone, until something else either decreases the stressful trigger or increase serotonin levels and disrupt the low serotonin tone. Repeated doses of the KOR agonist, Salvia, were also found to upregulate SERT. Schizophrenics also appear to have increased SERT levels. Meanwhile, manic disorder is linked to decreased SERT related genes. It may be that disruption of KOR mediated effects invoked by psychedelics stops this loop in which SERT is induced, thus allowing serotonin to accumulate again and restore a resilient state of mind.
There are sometimes perceptual alterations in hypomanic or manic states. Patients report things like clearer vision, stronger sense of touch and taste, seeing auras around people. This is in contrast to what is usually reported in psychotic states, hearing voices, seeing things that aren’t there. There may be some overlap between the two, but it seems that there are general differential trends for each state of mind.
Those with bipolar may have the kind of resilience that enables one to bounce back into DT despite prior failures. This may first lead to more social rejection, but they may learn by undergoing trial and error, rather than giving up permanently and becoming alienated like the schizophrenic might be. Their views may also be sculpted by the pressures of discipline and cohesion that occur in their social environment, leading to less absurd viewpoints when compared to the isolated and drifting schizophrenic.
These patterns of schizophrenia and bipolar may not be so fixed or present any duality, but instead there may be a spectrum that exists that is highly dependent on the social environment. A schizophrenic who is not socially ruined may retain their DT and be labeled schizotypal instead. There may be some who even present more like bipolar disorder despite having the more schizo-like genetic set.
Divergent thinking requires a kind of bravery, to abandon old ideas and allow yourself to entertain the possibility of those ideas being wrong. It is to entertain new ideas even if they contradict your current perspective. This explains the mood correlation with divergent thinking, where happiness or mania is positively correlated to DT, while low mood isn’t. Those who have higher mood may be more willing to risk the possibility of being wrong than someone who is very unhappy, where wrongness might just throw sticks into the fire.
The schizophrenic lacks divergent thinking, which leads to them holding a belief and extinguishing all contradictions, building an entire framework for which they value like it is their kin. They fear contradiction and cognitive dissonance. They fear wrongness so much that they must build some cohering network of ideas even if they end up rejecting novel contradictory ideas. This is low openness to experience. This schizophrenic outcome of having low DT is the kind of thing that develops from punishing people for bad or stupid ideas. It makes one develop a fear for the cognitive dissonance by punishing people for making ideological mistakes. They seek to prove that they aren’t wrong.
Meanwhile, the manic individual may ask lots of ‘what if’ questions. They may entertain ideas despite them contradicting previous theories they hold. They are fearless and willing to abandon their old ideas for exciting new ideas. Their willingness to be silly, playful, like the child, allows exploration of new ideas and facilitated creativity and development. Those with manic tendencies may still find themselves in a major crisis after encountering a fatal error in a belief system or idea that they have invested so heavily in, but they may be more prone to climbing out of the rut and returning to the fearless mania more than the schizophrenic, who simply ruminates in ruin or develops a state of denial.
For this reason, prior divergent thinking may risk one facing future psychoses or schizophrenia and eventually developing low divergent thinking after the aversive conditioning has taken hold. They may initially be willing to explore ideas but then clamp down in denial once they have experienced significant pain, resulting in an unwillingness to admit defeat or wrongfulness because of the possible suffering and embarrassment that will follow from admitting the loss.
Divergent thinking also ties into the development of narcissism for similar reasons, being the unwillingness to admit loss. I’ve actually observed that this narcissistic or psychotic tendency can be induced in people if you raise the price of failure exceedingly high so that the person’s best choice is to double down on the wrong idea. This was explored in The Arbiter of Truth. As a simple example, you can disagree with someone about their wrong belief and then insult them for being so stupid to have ever held such a belief. If you do this without providing any evidence for their belief being wrong, they will be internally primed to validate their own belief further, then, when presented the contradictory evidence that invalidates their argument, they are more inclined to reject this information, otherwise they must accept being bullied and defeated, they must accept that they were stupid all along. In The Arbiter of Truth I detail some accounts of popular thinkers exploiting this strategy in online debates and I even explore the times I used this strategy before realizing how horrible it was.
This is essentially gaslighting people to experience actual madness.
Basically you can insult someone and present weak or absurd sounding counterarguments on purpose, then when the debate opposition reciprocates your mocking and insults, they will be invested to stick to their point, or else they might look foolish for acting so cocky about their bad idea. This first phase shifts their motivation from truth-seeking to defending themselves against the abuse. Then as you bring up more factual refutation of their position using citations and thoughtful ideas, they will be unable to easily admit defeat because they invested too much. The bystanders watching this will more clearly see the opposition as being biased and even ‘cringy’. It is bullying and probably a bit traumatic.
In the case of inducing psychotic/narcissistic mentality in online debate forums, it likely doesn’t lead to ongoing schizophrenic problems. Similarly, inducing cognitive dissonance in most people based on disagreeing with them won’t be likely to induce full schizophrenia because they most likely held a belief that stood long enough to persist without psychotic problems already, otherwise they would already be schizophrenic. For example, if I used this strategy to disagree with people about veganism, they might leave the conversation feeling very insecure and seek out support from their family and friends later. They might say “a crazy vegan attacked me online” without detailing any of the cognitive dissonance inducing information points because of their fear of realizing that they could be true, thus reinforcing their suffering state. Their family/friends will likely respond with support, saying something like “yes, vegans are all crazy, they are a cult you know”. The person may have residual insecurity for a week or so, but they will reassure themselves and find strategies to cope or eliminate the cognitive dissonance.
After this mild ‘trauma’ they may feel triggered whenever vegan points get brought up. This may induce a rage and irrational tendencies. The person may seemingly get very personally offended or act as if they have been attacked, even if the person hasn’t been. This could take hold more generally, outside of the context of the specific debate topic, becoming any point of disagreement or conflict. This would be one pathway to narcissism, which I’ve argued is a kind of rejection-induced PTSD that sensitizes people to any hint of rejection or invalidation, also making them strongly seek validation to treat their anxious PTSD problem. They may even adopt the same kind of behavior and bullying that led to their outcome, as a way to intimidate anyone who threatens their belief system.
This suggests narcissism is a memetically contagious virus.
This also helps to explain how divergent thinking, mania, and schizophrenia may develop narcissistic tendencies, which I’ve explored in the post AntiNarcissism. Those who hold the more ubiquitously rejected belief system will be more prone to become psychotic predominantly, as opposed to narcissism alone.
Individuals who grow up in family environments where they are shamed or abused for being stupid might be especially prone to develop schizophrenia. This might sometimes work to weed out bad ideas in families that have a lot of divergent thinking, but it may also facilitate the development of schizophrenic outcomes too. You could imagine that this passes down as a familial parenting meme as well, perhaps in hopes of training out bad divergent thinking that trends in the family. The child who is punished for bad thinking may grow up and train their children to not think badly as well. Some of the children in these lineages may skillfully retain their bad ideas by performing mental gymnastics, a strategy often employed to manage cognitive dissonance. It’s worth noting here that people who cry mental gymnastics improperly are exploiting a fallacy of reasoning and ideas should be refuted critically, rather than being simply dismissed with the notion that mental gymnastics prove an idea wrong.
Besides family influences, the environment may play other roles in the development of these schizophrenic tendencies. Stress may bias our cognition to convergent thinking for the purpose of being safe and accurate while divergent thinking emerges when one is stress free, where risk-taking is viable rather than totally dangerous. Environmental contexts of security may factor in as well, where scarcity may drive cautious convergent strategies, sticking with what seems to follow the previous set of evidence, while divergent thinking may occur along with abundance, where the costs of mistakes aren’t as expensive.
Those with bipolar disorder may have a gene set that promotes stress resilience and makes one live life as if perpetual abundance, while on the other hand the schizophrenic gene set may induce a mindset geared towards scarcity, maintaining security, avoiding costs and dangers.
Learning becomes painful after some point. Cognitive dissonance is painful, knowing you know nothing is painful, nihilism is painful. Those who are pain averse will run and those who are more pain insensitive will continue learning. Curiosity can be like a drug, for some this can overpower the pain of being perpetually wrong and contradicted like a fool.
There is a meme known as after-gifted, which refers to the life of people after being a ‘gifted’ child. This may be a very good fit for bipolar disorder, as high academic performance is observed in the young bipolars. This may give them a special realization, to see that one can changed their status, that their life isn’t so fixed. One is not simply born successful, but that you can be both successful and a failure at various points in your life. Most people might assume that their past dictates their future, but for the bipolar it is increasingly clear that the past is inconsistent with the future.
The tendency to constantly explore reality will provide many special kinds of awarenesses, much like this notion that the past doesn’t dictate our future. The path of the exploratory restless manic will lead one into experiences outside the realm of most people’s secure naivety bubble. The bipolar is living a life in which outsider advice is almost never applicable. The outsiders are often living in a repetitious secure bubble world. They only know the world through the lens of their naivety.
If ignorance is bliss, then wisdom may be suffering.
This is problematic because people’s theory of mind is based on relating to one another. The more one’s memes mutate and deviate, the more unrelatable they become. Those who live some kind of rare lifestyle will be having experiences that others have never encountered. You could imagine that some find it difficult to imagine why being famous drives one mad, or leads one into terrible drug habits or even suicide. These people might be trapped in a realm of experiences that is totally isolating, despite the perceived social desirability of the celebrity.
The manic type might manic individual might do something successful, such as produce a new song, which causes a person to become envious and drives the person to act rudely in spite. Then the manic individual may become suspicious that more people will act like this towards them. Once they accuse others of being envious they will seem grandiose and crazy. This fuels the narcissism dynamic as well. The outsiders won’t have any similar experiences with people being rude and envious, so this person seems totally out of line, completely unrelatable. Consider that people really do sometimes act rude when their friends start excitedly making art or music. The problem here would be that the manic individual doesn’t know who is being rude for this reason, but they might impulsively accuse people erroneously.
Those who are reinforced for their DT ideas may be able to refine their DT skills, which may evolve into what we view as creativity.
DT may emerge not only from exploration of new ideas, but also from simple cognitive differences that can produce different ideas than those around them. Differences in working memory might produce different limitations and disinhibitions for idea creation.
Consider a hypothetical where the typical human capacity of short-term memory is 10 ideas. Imagine that most of society trains humans via the education system and social norms to live by the 10 idea limitation to prevent working memory disorder. The ideas developed by the people using 10 idea limitations would have been mostly thoroughly explored, meaning most people adhering to this limitation would have roughly similar ideas and with time, novel ideas will become increasingly rare. This is primarily because there are more people thinking within this limitation. Now imagine that you decide to bypass the limitation and explore concepts that are 30 ideas deep. You will face significant error and working memory disorder by going beyond your capacity, losing train of thought, and other issues, but this is where novel ideas are more common, as it is more or less unexplored territory, due to the societal norms.
In this model, being untrained and undisciplined with cognitive and working memory habits may lead to novel ideas. This could be one way which cannabis intoxication produces strange ideas but also working memory deficits, by inhibiting disciplined thinking patterns, and ‘freeing the mind‘. The effects seem to bring you down a rabbit hole of reasoning that sometimes produces insights or contrarily, terrible ideas. In each layer deeper one goes down the rabbit hole, one loses track of the previous layers, making it increasingly difficult to remain consistent with prior layers. It’s also important to consider that terrible ideas might not always be a manifestation of cognitive shortcomings, but instead we should view all untested ideas and hypotheses as possibly ‘bad ideas’ until they are confirmed through the experimental process or through trial and error.
Risk-taking may underlie creativity by allowing one to take the risk of experiencing errors (dumb ideas), for the possibility that they find rewarding novel ideas. Risk-taking is correlated to creativity, in one study. There is research showing that schizophrenics are less risky than those with bipolar disorder, and even more risk-averse than controls. There is also research showing genetic links to risk-taking and bipolar disorder according to a genome-wide association study. This also supports the observation that schizophrenia has a negative correlation with creativity while bipolar has a positive correlation. Intelligence has also correlated to creativity (complications in the definitions of this emerge) and openness to experience, which all have negative correlations with schizophrenia (low intelligence, low creativity, low openness) and positive correlations with bipolar disorder (high intelligence, high creativity, high openness).
Important Note: The intelligence correlation, and probably others, can probably be partilly explained by neurotransmitter mediated factors. For example, as mentioned earlier, dynorphin impairs cognition, but there are likely other mechanisms involved as well, such as KYNA. Read Dynorphin Theory for more information.
A lot of risk-taking behavior may be rewarded through success of the risk taken. When the outcome is good, the tendency to take further risks is reinforced. Those who experience bad outcomes may become risk-averse instead. The tendency of bipolar may be that they can recover from their fear of risk-taking more quickly than most people, through fear extinction, or even a lack of aversion learning. Meanwhile, the schizophrenic phenotype may become easily scarred by negative outcomes and avoid risk-taking in the long term.
Intelligence may be partially mediated by engaging with novel stimuli, engaging with learning, exploration and curiosity, and also through mood, which shapes motivation towards intellectual pursuits. There is an interesting new paper from 2020 titled Dopamine promotes cognitive effort by biasing the benefits versus costs of cognitive work, which explores how dopaminergic drugs may enhance cognition by enhancing motivations to solve the problem by increasing the sense of worthiness of doing so. Dynorphin was mentioned earlier, where schizophrenics have high dynorphin (also this), whereas bipolars have low dynorphin. This opioid peptide suppresses dopamine activity, which may explain anhedonia and low cognitive ability in schizophrenia and then high motivation and high cognitive ability in bipolar disorder. Dopamine has also associated to creativity as well.
Creativity may be inherently rewarding and so the association of creativity and mania may not be that mania increases creativity, but instead creativity may be rewarding and induce a manic high, one that causes one to chase a continual source of manic energy to perpetuate their high. It may also be true that seeking further creative ideas and taking more risks because easier with the confidence from the manic high, so in a sense it could be a feedback loop between creativity and mania. An initial spark of inspiration may begin the cycle of creation and manic induction. As one’s motivation spikes, they may sleep deprive, fail to eat, and do other behaviors that enhance manic symptoms until it gets really problematic.
How exploring novelty could enhance pattern recognition:
Exposure to the familiar leads to relatively detail-oriented cognition. Exploring is the concept of finding new observations, thoughts, and knowledge. It is a behavioral result of novelty-seeking. Imagine that you are taking a path to some destination, A. You can take the same path every time for efficiency. Due to repeated exposure, you will slowly learn and memorize the lesser noticed details of this path (detail-oriented thinking). With this scenario, the path becomes learned and environmental consciousness slowly fades out for automated/habituated navigation. While in this automatic mode, consciousness may rest or act leisurely and freely, essentially only giving attention to the critically important aspects of the task. This is why we dissociate when driving our commutes often times.
Exposure to the novel leads to pattern-oriented cognition. Now imagine that you took a novel path to reach destination A each time instead. You could not stay in this automated/habituated state because you have not yet determined how to navigate it mindlessly. Your consciousness would need to focus on being present and aware of the novel path, in order to handle the situation, learn and form automations for the future. You would not have exposure to the details of the same path each time, by definition, as you are exploring novel paths.
Though, novel paths are not entirely novel in every minute detail, that would be unrealistic. You would tend to find consistencies in the details among novel paths, and the repetition of these details would form into a different kind of memory. This other form of memory would be generalized into patterns or archetypes of paths, rather than specific paths in their defining detail, because you are not repeating specific paths.
By not reinforcing the memory of the details that essentially distinguish paths from each other, you would find that the memory for the details would be poor and not reinforced enough, while the memory of overlapping details among paths is reinforced. This could be a basis for pattern recognition. This means that pattern recognition is not necessarily a special inherent physiological trait, but moreso a secondary byproduct of exploration, driven by novelty-seeking, although both are possible. Keep in mind that this effect of exploration is of any medium: problem-solving, thinking, talking, driving; generalized exploration.
Novelty-seeking and exploration is a way to pattern recognition.
Moving back to evolutionary psychopathology, if bipolar is linked to higher cognitive ability and creativity, why isn’t our whole species like this? In a sense, it probably is, but there are likely phenotypes that are more extreme compared to the norm. There is also a reason we may not progress completely to that end of the spectrum, because risk-taking is by definition risky. Even our technological innovations often get released to the public without thorough investigation. This leads the risk-averse conspiracy theorists and schizotypes to reject these technologies, for example the recent drama centered on 5G network technologies. By biasing towards safety, the risk-averse may maintain a level of naivety that the risk-taker lacks.
This naivety and deprivation of curiosity may underlie part of the cognitive problems observed, but as mentioned before, there are many factors, where stress may be a key mediator of cognitive problems. The schizotype may be the stress-averse, which makes stress more potently cognitive disrupting, more aversive, and more hallucinogenic. They may protect the species from the recklessness of the risk-taker. The deviance from cultural norms may reside on both ends of the risk-spectrum. Many schizophrenics may be damaged creatives as well, where initial risk-taking led to painful outcomes and they closed themselves off from people, retreated into their bubble world of naivety only to become labeled as fixated and crazy later on.
Being perpetually naïve would also make the world outside of one’s bubble increasingly foreign, scary, and stressful. One would be ill-equipped to assess the world its’ people in an information vacuum of social isolation, thus resulting in increased errors of judgment. If this perspective sounds interesting, I recommend Trauma Traps, which explores autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder under this idea of trauma-inducing developmental suppression and the resulting bubble-world.
Is the drive for humans to become homogeneous also pushing out creativity? This was an argument in Xenotypy. The memetic convergence that society expects of one for life success in most areas may promote the extinction of the tendency towards memetic divergence, of memetic mutation. Perhaps more and more people will take homogeneous paths to their destination using GPS tools.
While there is an ever-increasing pressure to synchronize our knowledge bases, to consume the same memes, to be in the know, and to acquire insider information for our subculture, especially in this internet-age, we are clearly still quite heterogenous both in meme and gene. Our relatedness coefficients have not reached higher than 0.5 at least. We must retain value in deviance, cultural exploration, novelty, and chaos in order to maintain our creative spirit as a species. Our memetic pools have not totally synchronized, although this global internet phenomenon might be getting spooky with it’s viral content.
This is not yet the extinction of creativity.
One might wonder, has this essay brought anything novel to the conversation? Is this simply a mutated variant of old ideas?
Is this idea sex?
Hopefully the relatedness coefficient of this synthesized idea child is 0.5 or less.
Special thanks to the two patrons, Abhishaike Mahajan and Charles Wright! Abhi is also the artist who created the cover image for Most Relevant. Please support him on instagram, he is an amazing artist! I’d also like to thank Annie Vu, Chris Byrd, and Kettner Griswold for making these projects and the podcast possible.
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