thought insertion

The notion of thought insertion appears difficult to understand from an outsiders perspective due to the comprehension that a thought a person has is perceived to not be theirs. This concept challenges rational beliefs about thought and what it is to think. This is a type of delusion which an irrational belief which cannot be otherwise explained from differing cultural or societal norms (Mullins and Spence, 2003). Commonly regarded as a characteristic of schizophrenia, thought insertion has been defined as the experience of having thoughts that do not belong to oneself, and therefore the belief that they have been merely inserted by someone or something else (Billion, 2013). Whilst slightly perplexing, clinicians believe that when their patients express delusions of thought insertion that they are being truthful and this is what they really believe. This symptom, depending on the severity of the individual condition, can last up to years and therefore are increasingly distressing for the individual.

Current research has highlighted the importance of the subjectivity of experience or ‘for-me-ness’ reiterating the concept that this selfhood is essential in understanding consciousness-expanding upon previous concepts such as phenomenology (Henriksen, Parnas and Zahavi, 2019). However, this has been scrutinised in the area of schizophrenia and symptoms such as delusions and thought insertion due to the questioning of their overt consciousness. Whilst repeatedly disputed, there is no denying that thought insertion is a complex concept for both the psychiatrist and for the individual. It has been known for those with schizophrenia to deny experiencing delusions or hallucinations due to either becoming accustomed to it or not recognising that the auditory hallucinations that they are experiencing are within their head and perceiving them to be from an external stimulus.

This, therefore, presents difficulty in assessing those with schizophrenia due to the subjective nature of the condition which is compromised by the belief that they are not their own thoughts, thus reducing the subjectivity.


Billon, A. (2013). Does consciousness entail subjectivity? The puzzle of thought insertion. Philosophical Psychology26(2), 291-314.

Henriksen, M. G., Parnas, J., & Zahavi, D. (2019). Thought insertion and disturbed for-me-ness (minimal selfhood) in schizophrenia. Consciousness and cognition74, 102770.

Mullins, S., & Spence, S. A. (2003). Re-examining thought insertion: Semi-structured literature review and conceptual analysis. The British Journal of Psychiatry182(4), 293-298.

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