Skip to content Skip to navigation

“The Truman Show Delusion: Hell is other people.”

Joel Gold
MD, psychiatrist, New York University School of Medicine
Date and Time: 
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - 17:30

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)


Delusions can be wildly irrational, and wildly interesting. Little is know about delusions, and much research focuses on how these thoughts arise and why they are so hard to abolish. But there are lots of interesting questions about delusions that get almost no attention. One of these is: Do delusions change over time and do they differ from culture to culture? Using case material, I describe a new delusional variant known as the Truman show delusion (TSD) which highlights the
question of culture in a particularly striking way. I sketch a theory according to which an evolutionary system used to assess social threat, the suspicion system, can give rise to TSD and other delusions. This theory posits that the social environment is powerful in the shaping of and perhaps even to the development of psychotic illness.


Joel Gold, M.D. is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. He worked at New York City’s famed Bellevue Hospital for 14 years, where he became the head of its psychiatric ER and then of its outpatient clinic. He has a private practice in Manhattan. He is a regular contributor to and his work has been profi led in The New Yorker and The New York Times, on This American Life, and elsewhere. Dr. Gold has published articles in peer-reviewed journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Science. His fi rst book, Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness was published in 2014.