in patients who have attempted suicide: traits
or state variables?
ARMIN SCHMIDTKE SYLVIA SCHALLER, EVELYN FLURSCHUTZ and GERD MEIER
In attempting to explain suicidal behaviour, hypotheses suggesting that certain cognitive styles may be peculiar to suicidal persons have often been put forward, the assumption being that their attitudes and behaviour are 'illogical'. It has been claimed that such persons exhibit deficient cognitive capabilities, and that their thinking is characterised by narrowness, rigidity, and inflexibility, as well as by an 'either/or' approach to situations, e.g. an inability to distinguish the essential from the inessential, or inappropriate retrieval strategies for autobiographical memories ( Neuringer, 1964; Rothe, 1980; Schraderet al., 1986; Williams and Broadbent, 1986). If this is indeed the case, such an outlook may well result in the false evaluation of situations or events which may be of a potentially suicide-triggering nature. Also, erroneous suicide-provoking attitudes towards life and death have often been explained in terms of inadequate cognition ( Orbach and Glaubman, 1978).
In spite of such assertions, most previous investigations of the intelligence and/or intelligence structure of suicidal persons have revealed that both adolescent and adult suicides and parasuicides, in general, exhibit intelligence values not significantly different from those observable in control groups. Even when comparisons were made within the same diagnostic groups, only very few investigations revealed lower values for patients who had attempted suicide.
The discrepancies between the results of previous studies can be explained, at least partly, by inadequate methodologies, unsatisfactory approaches, and deficient sample-matching.