psychologist Milton Rokeach "gathered three psychiatric patients, each with the delusion that they were Jesus Christ, to live together for two years in Ypsilanti State Hospital to see if their beliefs would change." They didn't:

These tales are surprising because delusions, in the medical sense, are not simply a case of being mistaken. They are considered to be pathological beliefs, reflecting a warped or broken understanding that is not, by definition, amenable to being reshaped by reality. One of most striking examples is the Cotard delusion, under which a patient believes she is dead; surely there can be no clearer demonstration that simple and constant contradiction offers no lasting remedy. Rokeach, aware of this, did not expect a miraculous cure. Instead, he was drawing a parallel between the baseless nature of delusion and the flimsy foundations we use to construct our own identities. If tomorrow everyone treats me as if I have an electronic device in my head, there are ways and means I could use to demonstrate they are wrong and establish the facts of the mattera visit to the hospital perhaps. But what if everyone treats me as if my core self were fundamentally different than I believed it to be? Let's say they thought I was an undercover agentwhat could I show them to prove otherwise? From my perspective, the best evidence is the strength of my conviction. My belief is my identity.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.