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Perspect Psychol Sci. 2010 Nov;5(6):716-743.

Mistreating Psychology in the Decades of the Brain.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, and Zukunfstkolleg, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany.


We systematically mistreat psychological phenomena, both logically and clinically. This article explores three contentions: that the dominant discourse in modern cognitive, affective, and clinical neuroscience assumes that we know how psychology/biology causation works when we do not; that there are serious intellectual, clinical, and policy costs to pretending we do know; and that crucial scientific and clinical progress will be stymied as long as we frame psychology, biology, and their relationship in currently dominant ways. The arguments are developed with emphasis on misguided attempts to localize psychological function via neuroimaging, misunderstandings about the role of genetics in psychopathology, and unfortunate constraints on health-care policy and clinical service delivery. A particular challenge, articulated but not resolved in this article, is determining what constitutes adequate explanation in the relationship between psychology and biology.

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