Beyond "Salience" and "Affordance": Understanding Anomalous Experiences of Significant Possibilities

Matthew James Ratcliffe, Matthew R. Broome

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Schizophrenia and psychosis are associated with wide-ranging phenomenological disturbances. These, it is often said, involve ‘aberrant salience’. Others have sought to account for the relevant phenomenology in terms of ‘affordance’. In this chapter, we identify a shortcoming that is common to both approaches. There are many distinctions to be drawn between different kinds and different aspects of salience, some or all of which might prove clinically relevant. Consequently, terms such as ‘salience dysregulation’ and ‘aberrant salience’ lack the required discriminatory power. They should serve only as a starting point for the task of understanding anomalous experience in psychiatric illness and relating it to neuroscience. We go on to argue that recent appeals to experiences of ‘affordance’ fall short in the same way. Better, we suggest, to acknowledge the many subtly but importantly different ways in which human experience is permeated by a sense of the possible than to mask this complexity and diversity by settling for concepts that are insufficiently discerning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSalience
Subtitle of host publicationA Philosophical Inquiry
EditorsSophie Archer
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)9780815385196
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2022

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