Schizophrenia - a scientific delusion?


Boyle, Mary 1988. Schizophrenia - a scientific delusion? Thesis University of East London
AuthorsBoyle, Mary

The validity of claims made about 'schizophrenia' (that it
is a scientific concept and that it refers to a syndrome)
was assessed in three analyses: of the writings of those
said first to have described schizophrenia; of the
development of rules for inferring schizophrenia and of
'genetic' research said to be central to the concept's
theoretical network. Four major conclusions were drawn: 1.
That there was no evidence to support the original
introduction of 'schizophrenia', but good evidence that
some of the population from which it was derived were
suffering from a later-identified neurological disorder.
2. That the rules for inferring schizophrenia have been
developed in a manner quite different from the development
of concepts in the empirical sciences and in medicine. 3.
That there is no evidence that the rules set out in DSM-111
refer either to a syndrome or to any pattern of phenomena
and 4. that 'genetic' research has been seriously
misrepresented in secondary sources and does not support
A number of factors were discussed as possibly important in
explaining the continued use and influence of
‘schizophrenia'. These included the use of popular but
fallacious types of argument to defend the concept, the
functions it apparently serves for psychiatry and the
public, the perceived primacy of biological or
dispositional explanations of behaviour and the habits of
'seeing' patterns in unrelated phenomena, of inferring
before describing, of reifying constructs and of confusing
observation and inference.
Finally, the implications of abandoning 'schizophrenia'
were discussed and the weak foundations of the distinctions
between 'normal, and abnormal' behaviour emphasised. An
alternative framework, derived from the experimental
analysis of behaviour was suggested and illustrated, both
for the analysis of bizarre behaviour and of the conditions
under which it is seen as symptomatic of schizophrenia.

Keywordsschizophrenia; validity
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Deposited11 May 2011
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