The British Journal of Psychiatry
Schizophrenic Thinking in a Problem-Solving Situation
Norman Cameron


A qualitative analysis of the thinking of severely disorganized schizophrenic patients in a problem situation brought out the following:

  1. The most striking characteristic of their performance contributing to their failure was the over-inclusion of environmental and imaginal material in the neutral problem itself. The patients could not eliminate from the functional pattern those elements which the normal adult would not treat as belonging to the same plane as the problem, or by the same operations. This incapacity may be observed not only by the experimenter but by the patient as well. A comparison is made of the psychological boundaries, as they appear in schizophrenic thought, in normal adults under special circumstances, and as Lewin describes them for oligophrenics.

  2. The schizophrenic patients called for changes in the rules of procedure and in the materials, and declared the situation to be inadequate instead of themselves. This phenomenon resembles their reactions to the inflexible order of real events in their own life-situations.

  3. Non-correspondence occurred frequently between what the patient actually did and what he said he had done,and between the perceptual pattern and the patient's formulation of it. A simple colour grouping, for instance, was characterized in some other way, often more complex, and quite at variance with the patient's operation or its result. Act, or pattern, and word seemed often to belong to different systems of integration.

  4. Generalizations were numerous; and shifts from one hypothesis to another occurred without evidence of unusual difficulty. The generalizations were unsuccessful because they were (a) too broad, (b) too involved, or (c) too entangled with personal problems and phantasies, or (d) because the language structure was so disorganized that it could neither function as social communication, nor serve as a basis for the patient's own performance. Moreover, (e) the generalizations, even when quite correct, often did not lead to any corresponding act.

This study develops farther our experimental analysis of schizophrenic thinking, the earlier results of which are summarized at the end of the introductory section. The present report, based upon a method of manipulation and grouping, brings out new aspects of schizophrenic thinking and corroborates the conclusions derived from our study of logical relationships.