PERFECT 2014-2019

Pragmatic and Epistemic Role of Factually Erroneous Cognitions and Thoughts

I was awarded a European Research Council Consolidator Grant (€ 1,900,075) to study the pragmatic and epistemic features of pathological and non-pathological cognitions. The five-year project, PERFECT, started in October 2014 and ended in September 2019. The research team included post-doctoral researchers and PhD students.

Ema Sullivan-Bissett, Kathy Puddifoot, Andrea Polonioli and Sophie Stammers all contributed to PERFECT as post-doctoral research fellows. Magdalena Antrobus got her PhD in November 2017, and Valeria Motta will complete in 2019. Alex Miller Tate, Matilde Aliffi, and Eugenia Lancellotta acted as research assistants in the last year of the project. PERFECT also benefited throughout from the participation of clinical psychologist Michael Larkin (Aston University).

PERFECT aimed to establish whether cognitions that are inaccurate in some important respect can be good for us from a pragmatic or epistemic point of view.

Main case studies included delusional beliefs, distorted memories, and confabulatory explanations, which are frequent in the non-clinical population and also listed as symptoms of psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and dementia. We asked whether they can be adaptive, psychologically beneficial, and even epistemically advantageous. The project also examined optimistic beliefs and predictions, implicit biases, and complex emotions such as loneliness and boredom.

One of the main aims of PERFECT was to undermine the theoretical foundations of mental health stigma and we worked together with Mind in Camden, the Mental Health Foundation, and Inside Out Australia to bring our research to mental health activists and people with experience of distress.

We produced 2 books, 2 special issues, 46 journal articles, 10 book chapters, and 1 policy brief, as well as a number of open access resources including blog posts, podcasts, videos, and a training package in philosophy and mental health.

PERFECT was featured in the University of Birmingham Heroes campaign in November 2015 and November 2017.

Poster of Birmingham Heroes campaign 2017
Poster of Birmingham Heroes campaign 2015
Magdalena, Poster Conference (Birmingham 2015)
Valeria and Lisa, Stories of Solitude (York 2018)
Matilde and Eugenia, ThinkTank (Birmingham 2019)
Sophie, Royal College of Psychiatrists (Sydney 2018)