How Can Logic Help Treat Psychological Disorders?

Wed, 20 Jan 2021
ZOOM platform
19:00 MSK
Online lecture & discussion
About the lecture
The lecture will be delivered in English with simultaneous translation into Russian
In a broad sense, logic is a study of formal reasoning, i.e. rules of inference. However, it is also claimed to be about human reasoning. Lately, logic has been studied within cognitive science, which includes computer science, linguistics, philosophy, and psychology, among other disciplines.

In the opening, Viktoria Denisova introduces the notion of logic, observes some historical facts regarding research in logic and its correlation with cognitive science and cognitive psychology in general.

Then, prof. Dmitrii Kovpak presents the logical roots in developing cognitive behavioural psychology. He suggests that Stoicism has become widely popular as a complementary mean for treating depression, stress, and some other disorders. He emphasises the fact that cognitive psychology deals with logical aspects of reasoning as well and points out differences in the angles of their research (i.e. memory, situation, observation).

Finally, prof. dr. Michiel van Lambalgen discusses his current research work where logicians and cognitive psychologists (cognitive scientists in general) collaborate. He suggests that logicians and cognitive scientists have completed the conjoint research work and have presented the findings that are useful for treating some psychological disorders.

The lecture is organised to celebrate World Logic Day 2021.
Logic in the study of psychiatric disorders by Michiel van Lambalgen
Theories of autism tend to focus on largely disjoint subsets of the set of symptoms that constitute the entire spectrum. For example, the "theory of mind deficit" focusses on impaired social skills such as empathy, whereas the "executive dysfunction" theory addresses the inability to "inhibit the pre-potent response", which gives rise to behavioural rigidity.

In the literature, there is a tendency to view these theories as competitors, but we will show that the theories are rather similar and have in fact a common logical core. The use of the word "logic" may seem inappropriate here, since executive function is primarily concerned with actions, not propositions, whereas logic as traditionally conceived treats relations between propositions. (Note that, by contrast, the false belief task – the paradigmatic diagnostic test for a theory of mind deficit – seems propositional, hence unproblematically susceptible to logical analysis.) A moment's reflection shows, however, that executive function is in part constituted by rules of the general form (*) "if precondition C holds and action a is performed, then the result of performing a has property P".

We claim that the common formal structure of 'theory of mind deficit' theory and 'executive dysfunction' theory is given by rules which arise by hedging (*):

(**) "if precondition C holds and action a is performed and nothing abnormal is the case, then the result of performing a has property P".

We call such rules "exception-tolerant". Stenning & van Lambalgen argued that a delicate interplay between rules of type (**), guided by nonmonotonic inference explains neurotypical behaviour in both the false belief task and tasks testing executive function; and that resistance to nonmonotonic inference leads to the response patterns characteristic for autism. This suggests the hypothesis that autists' verbal and non-verbal reasoning is affected by an inability to reason with exception-tolerant rules.

The hypothesis has been confirmed experimentally (Pijnacker et al, Neuropsychologia 2009). We discuss the relevance of this result for therapeutic intervention.

Michiel van Lambalgen
Michiel van Lambalgen is a professor of logic and cognitive science at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation and at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Amsterdam.

He studied philosophy and mathematical logic and wrote his PhD thesis on randomness and Kolmogorov complexity. A chance encounter with Keith Stenning led to an intense collaboration aiming to bring logic back into cognitive science. The guiding idea was that logic can provide informative models of cognitive tasks such as processing of tense and aspect, but also of logical reasoning, in particular reasoning of people with psychiatric disorders. The predictions generated by this research programme were confirmed in collaboration with the Donders Centre in Nijmegen.

His book Human reasoning and cognitive science is an impassioned defence of the role of logic in cognitive science. More recently, van Lambalgen developed an interest in the role played by logic in Immanuel Kant's Critique of pure reason. The ultimate aim is to use Kant's insights into logic and its role in cognition to foster the development of "explainable artificial intelligence".
Dmitrii Kovpak
Prof. dr. Dmitrii Kovpak is the founder and president of the Association for Cognitive and Behavioural Psychotherapy in Russia. Since 2016, he serves as Vice President of the Russian Psychotherapeutic Association. He is also a board member of the International Association for Cognitive Psychotherapy (IACP) and a member of the Beck Institute International Advisory Committee.

Dmitrii Kovpak authored ten monographs, including guidelines for psychotherapists ("How to get rid of anxiety and fear", "How to overcome pain", "Stress management", et al).

Dmitrii Kovpak is a founder and organiser of three major annual professional conferences for mental health professionals that are held for the last two decades: "Clinical Pavlovian Readings", "Contemporary Topics of Psychosomatics in General Medical Practice", and round tables organised during the programme of "Modern Practice in Border Psychiatry".

To promote psychotherapy and prevention of nervous and mental diseases among population, prof. Kovpak had participated in filming more than 50 programmes about mental health that were later aired on major Russian TV channels. Since 2019, he is an official Ambassador of the city of St. Petersburg.
Viktoria Denisova
Viktoria Denisova is an alumna of the research Institute for Logic, Language and Computation at the University of Amsterdam, where she obtained the Master of Science in Logic degree. Viktoria was particularly interested in the semantics of logic and natural language. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Logic at Saint Petersburg State University.

Being a CELTA certified teacher, Viktoria has founded a language school called English Deduction and developed an approach to teaching English based on findings of logic. In her work both as a teacher and analyst, she uses methods that have roots in Ancient Greek philosophy.

Besides her professional activities, Viktoria had been the Ambassador of the University of Amsterdam in Saint Petersburg for several years. She has been very interested in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and, in particular, its correlations with logic in treating psychological disorders.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021, 19:00 MSK
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