The technique consists of the artist invoking a paranoid state (fear that the self is being manipulated, targeted or controlled by others). The result is a deconstruction of the psychological concept of identity such that subjectivity becomes the primary aspect of the artwork.
The aspect of paranoia that Dalí was interested in and which helped inspire the method was the ability of the brain to perceive links between things which rationally are not linked. Dalí described the paranoiac-critical method as a “spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on the critical and systematic objectivity of the associations and interpretations of delirious phenomena”.
Employing the method when creating a work of art uses an active process of the mind to visualise images in the work and incorporate these into the final product. An example of the resulting work is a double image or multiple images in which an ambiguous image can be interpreted in different ways.
French writer and poet André Breton hailed the method, saying that Dalí’s paranoiac-critical method was an “instrument of primary importance” and that it “has immediately shown itself capable of being applied equally to painting, poetry, the cinema, the construction of typical surrealist objects, fashion, sculpture, the history of art and even, if necessary, all manner of exegesis”.