Suspicious Minds (Hardcover)

How Culture Shapes Madness

By Joel Gold, Ian Gold

Free Press, 9781439181553, 352pp.

Publication Date: July 8, 2014

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (7/21/2015)
Compact Disc (7/21/2015)
MP3 CD (12/2/2014)

List Price: 26.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


What if you woke up with the alarming suspicion that you were being watched?

One day in 2003, a patient unlike any other that Dr. Joel Gold had seen before was admitted to his unit at Bellevue Hospital. This man claimed he was being filmed constantly and that his life was being broadcast around the world like The Truman Show—the 1998 film depicting a man who is unknowingly living out his life as the star of a popular soap opera. Over the next few years, Dr. Gold saw a number of patients suffering from what he and his brother, Dr. Ian Gold, began calling the “Truman Show delusion,” launching them on a quest to understand the nature of this particular phenomenon, of delusions more generally, and of madness itself.

The current view of delusions is that they are the result of biology gone awry, of neurons in the brain misfiring. In contrast, the Golds argue that delusions are the result of the interaction between the brain and the social world. By exploring the major categories of delusion through fascinating case studies and marshaling the latest research in schizophrenia, the brothers reveal the role of culture and the social world in the development of psychosis—delusions in particular. Suspicious Minds presents a groundbreaking new vision of just how dramatically our surroundings can influence our brains.

About the Author

Joel Gold, MD, is Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine. He is in private practice in Manhattan.

Ian Gold, PhD, is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Psychiatry at McGill University.

Praise For Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness

“Incisive [and] insightful. . . . [C]lear, witty, and engaging. . . . [T]he brothers Gold propose an intriguing new hypothesis to account for delusions: a malfunctioning “Suspicion System,” in which the cognitive system that has evolved to alert us to possible danger breaks down, becoming so overloaded by an abundance of real and perceived external threats that it can no longer discriminate between justifiable wariness and paranoia.”

“The book amounts to nothing less than a frontal—or perhaps pre-frontal—challenge to the dominant view of modern psychiatry, which looks to neuroscience to explain disorders of the mind. . . . Suspicious Minds comes alive with often-provocative notions. [Joel and Ian Gold] pepper the book with often fascinating case histories of the deluded, which provide more proof that no fantasist can hope to match the wonders—and horrors—of the human mind.”

"A dual broadside: against a psychiatric profession that has become infatuated with neuroscience as part of its longstanding attempt to establish itself as 'real medicine,' and against a culture that has become too networked for its own good."

"Suspicious Minds is an important book. It's sharp, compassionate and incredibly well researched. It gives a window into current psychiatric debates, and it builds toward a theory that is at least plausible and definitely thought provoking."

"Evidently, [the Gold brothers] hypothesize in a droll Oliver Sacksian tone, culture has a great deal of influence on trends in madness."

"A fascinating and intimate portrait of psychosis."

"Juxtaposing recent research on schizophrenia with page-turning case studies of these paranoid patients, the Golds argue that psychotic delusions (not to mention mesmeric movie plots) are the result of interactions between the brain and the sociocultural world, and they bring to light the discipline-altering fact that culture has a role to play in the development of psychopathology generally. . . . [A] contrarian, insightful, and important book. . . . [Gold and Gold's] analysis of culture-linked paranoia comprises an effective argument that our seemingly endless struggle to align our society with our more enlightened ideals may be a fight for our very minds."

Suspicious Minds offers lessons to anyone interested in the complexity of the mental health field’s future.”

"The Golds reveal how the categories of delusion map onto the social world, and they raise questions about the future of madness in a social world that’s gone global in the age of the Internet. The result is a view that breaks the bonds of contemporary psychiatry by showing that madness is as much a social disease as it is biological."

"A provocative new perspective on the diagnosis, and therefore treatment, of mental illness."

“This remarkable book isn’t just a crash course in delusions, which would be interesting enough. It’s a history of psychiatry, a thriller, an expose of dubious brain science, a collection of fascinating and heartbreaking mini-biographies, and a warning about the fragmentation of modern life.”
— A.J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically

"A compulsively readable and unexpectedly entertaining book that stands as a needed corrective to a purely biological explanation for mental illness. By emphasizing the cultural vector for madness, the Gold brothers reveal their compassionate understanding of both the sick and the sane—and the surprisingly porous border between those two states."
— John Colapinto, author of As Nature Made Him and a staff writer at The New Yorker

"An excellent portrayal of delusions and madness, well written, well researched and exciting to read. Written by experts in the field, I highly recommend this book to all those who want a deeper understanding of the mind and how it works."
— Benjamin Sadock, MD, Menas S Gregory Professor of Psychiatry, NYU School of Medicine

“A powerful and engaging examination of how insanity is molded by culture. Pithy, insightful, and engrossing.”
— Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine

“The book provides a bracing insight into the natural hidden camera apprehensions of our era, through the eyes of the most vulnerable among us. Artists, videographers and writers interested in the philosophy of the digital era will want to place Suspicious Minds on their nightstands.”