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Psychiatry. 1999 Fall;62(3):222-34.

Physics and the quandaries of contemporary psychiatry: review and research.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114,USA.


Although in physics, quantum mechanical principles have long replaced Newtonian ones, we continue to apply the latter in models of the mind and its diseases. This article discusses the possible theoretical application of quantum principles to mind-brain function. Empirically, this study tested which of these principles practicing psychiatrists found more applicable in clinical practice. Psychiatrists (N = 382) at universities around the United States were asked to answer a questionnaire that contained clinical scenarios reflecting mental, interpersonal, or therapeutic processes corresponding to quantum or classical physical principles. Respondents (N = 191) were significantly more likely to rate scenarios reflecting quantum principles as being consistent with their experience than they were those reflecting classical principles (p < .0005). This effect was significantly greater in more experienced psychiatrists. Quantum physics, a powerful tool in understanding properties of both micro- and macro-level phenomena, may have implications at the human level, invoking the roles of observer, interpersonal relationships, and resources such as resiliency and creativity.

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