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Subjectivity & Bias

November 11: Culture-Bound Syndromes

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Ask:

  • If other cultures can have culture-bound syndromes, can we? Or are our ideas about mental illness objective reality?
  • Are depression and PMS culture-bound syndromes? How does it relate to modernity? How is this similar to or different from concepts like neurasthenia?
  • What role should patient experiences play in understanding, treating, or defining disorders?
  • What makes something a “real” disorder versus a culture-bound one?
  • Are some culture-bound syndromes easier to understand than others? Why?
  • What modern/culture-bound illnesses can you think of in your own experience/circles?

November 13: False Memories & Moral Panics

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Optional:

Ask:

  • Are memories fallible or can they be trusted?
  • If the former, what implications does this have for courts?
  • How do courts try to distinguish false memories from true ones? Is this different from how psychologists do this? What about from how you do this in regard to your own memories?
  • Can Satanic Panic be considered a culture-bound syndrome or should we think about it in some different way? Can culture-bound syndromes exist within small subcultures?
  • How can we explain something like Satanic Panic while taking it seriously as a belief system and experience on the part of the people who reported it?
  • Are supernatural claims primarily about religious beliefs? Are they conversions of trauma into something more understandable to the traumatized person? Are they something else?
  • Are the children at McMartin lying? What does it mean to lie in this context?
  • Who is wrong here? The parents? The child advocates and police? The daycare workers? Do you have to intend to mislead in order to be wrong?
  • What do cases like this mean for how we understand our own memories, or other people’s memories? What does this mean for psychologists and patients? What about for discussions of child abuse?

November 6: Race, Social Pathologies & Sociology

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Ask:

  • How does subjective identity (in this case, being black) shape how a person relates to the world? How does this, in turn, affect how psychological treatment works or ought to work?
  • If we have to take the patient’s (or research subject’s) subjectivity into account, do we also need to take the researcher or counselor’s subjectivity into account? How can we do this? Think here about Moynihan’s identity and how that shaped his interpretation of the problem he was looking at. How might someone else’s interpretation have differed?
  • What is the relationship between psychology and sociology? To what extent are personal problems also social problems, or vice versa?
  • What are the consequences or benefits of treating psychology as an atomized discipline? Are there problems that are purely psychological? What about purely social?
  • Can a family be disordered? What about a group or subculture? Is this the same as an individual being disordered?