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Unread October 28th, 2006, 05:37 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 106
Default Re: Evolutionary Psychology and Mental Dysfunction

Hey James,

> Wakefield has something to sell: be cautious.

Do you know something I don't? My understanding is that he is a Social Worker... He has written close to 20 papers on his 'harmful dysfunction' (HD) analysis of the concept of mental disorder, though. His stuff has been fairly influential but I'm finding it hard to make sense of his view... I just liked the way he appealed to evolutionary psychology as the science that was relevant to fixing mental (and physical) functions.

> EP sometimes has problems justifying its own sanity.

Yeah. Adaptationist assumptions are hard too... There is some stuff on mental disorders being adaptations but then they couldn't be due to malfunction... One notion is that the genes relevant for certain kinds of mental disorder might be like the genes relevant for sickle cell anemea. I can't remember what it is called... But basically if you have a dominant and a recessive gene then you are resistent to sicke cell anemia (which is good) when you have both recessive then you are succeptible (which is bad) if you have both dominant then you have sickle cell anemia (which is bad). Because it is good to have one of the genes the genes are still around in the population. Sorry I probably messed up the example (something to do with sickle cell anemia and / or maleria though) and there is a name for it... Heterozygote advantage? My knowledge of biology is fairly minimal... This is controversial anyway.

> A friend too long out of contact, Dylan Evans, was really into this topic about 10 years ago. Check also Stevens & Price. And tell Dylan that I said "Hi."

I found a post in the archives (early archives on this site) where you were responding to someones thoughts on the topic. I thought you might still be interested, that is why I posted about it. My thesis has evolved from emotions to psychopathology more generally (and psychiatry in particular).

> There is probably no dependable relationship between what a person does and what is called crazy.

Yeah. Though... You could say there is a dependable relationship between what a person does and what is *justifyably* called crazy. Or you could say that there is a relationship between what a person does together with the best theory that we have of their behaviour (that they have a malfunctioning mental mechanism) that together determine whether the person is crazy or not. That is the way Wakefield goes.

The DSM allows the malfunction to be purely behavioural. Wakefield maintains that this has the result that the DSM is over-inclusive. Wakefield maintains that if we think a little harder... Take a person who meets DSM criteria for a reading disorder. If they meet the criteria due to inner malfunction then they are appropriately considered to be mentally disordered. If they meet criteria due to their never having been taught to read, however, then Wakefield maintains that intuitively they do not have a mental disorder though we may consider them to have a problem in living that is worthy of treatment.

Another example would be if we take a smoke detector. Smoke detectors are designed to have a certain number of false positives. It is better for them to go off when they don't have to than to not go off when they should. If we put a smoke detector near the stove then it will go off all the time, however. Wakefield considers that the smoke detector isn't malfunctioning, however, as it is in an alien environment that is outside the range of the environments it was designed for. (Analogy for neurotic fear responses in modern environments).
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