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J Abnorm Psychol. 1999 Aug;108(3):400-11.

Essentialism revisited: evolutionary theory and the concept of mental disorder.

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Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


J. C. Wakefield's (1999) elaboration of his harmful dysfunction analysis (HDA) of mental disorder does little to address previous criticisms (S. O. Lilienfeld & L. Marino, 1995) and instead reveals further conceptual weaknesses in his position. The authors demonstrate that (a) a Roschian analysis can account for the results of all of Wakefield's conceptual experiments and predicts a number of judgments of disorder not predicted by the HDA, (b) the HDA is incapable in many cases of providing a scientifically nonarbitrary distinction between disorder and nondisorder, and (c) the HDA cannot account for failures of cultural ex adaptations, mismatches between evolutionary design and novel environments, or defenses against threat. The authors argue that the HDA has been convincingly falsified and discuss the failure of essentialistic concepts to resolve controversies in other domains of biological science.

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