Discontinuity Zimbardo

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    A theoretical framework is presented to understand the fundamental process

    of adapting to experiential discontinuities that are of personal significance to

    one's self-concept. The central dynamic of this approach is the motivation

    triggered by perception of a discontinuity, which is defined as a violation of

    expectation in any domain of functioning highly valued by the self. Such

    discontinuities may arise from the experience of failures, deficits, or

    transformations in intellectual, social, sexual, sensory, physical, or career

    domains. The motivation to understand the cause of a discontinuity, and to

    appear rational to one's self and others, generates a cognitive search process,

    while the motivation to appear normal, to be like others, generates a social

    search process. A behaviorally oriented search may be generated to take actions

    to suppress the arousal and deflect or ignore the distress associated with

    discontinuities. Although these three search processes are variants of what

    makes humans smart, connected, and functional, they may become biased in

    their operation in ways that distort their typically adaptive use. When that

    happens, various forms of social pathology and psychopathology may emerge in

    people without evident premorbid dispositions. These pathologies are referred to

    as aspects of "madness." This broad term is used to cover a continuum from

    ordinary irrationality, fears, anxieties, obsessions, compulsions, addictive

    behaviors, prejudice, and mass hysteria, to more extreme forms of mental

    disorders such as phobia, paranoia, and depression. Direct links are posited

    between the kinds of search process biases activated in some people and the

    specific forms of pathology that appear as people try to make sense of, or cope

    with, their discontinuity.

    Copyright 1999 by Academic Press.All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.

    0065-2601/99 $30.00

    DISCONTINUITY THEORY:

    COGNITIVE AND SOCIAL

    SEARCHES FOR RATIONALITY

    AND NORMALITY-MAY LEADTO MADNESS

    I. Overview

    345

    Philip G. Zimbardo

    ADVANCES IN EXPERIMENTALSOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, VOL. 31

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