Psychology’s Expanding Concepts of Harm & Pathology Essay Papers.

Psychology’s Expanding Concepts of Harm & Pathology Essay Papers.

Notes on Thought Papers”

Write a Brief Thought Paper that reflects on the reading for class ((PDF file) that includes your full name, date, and the class number on the top left corner.

(Times New Roman font, 12 font sizes, 1” margins, single space, one full page).

Your paper must be integrative and may not focus on only one reading.

Write your thoughts on the most important things you read from the article in your opinion, don’t write a summary so only thoughts.

It should be one full page single space. (Not more or less than a full page) Psychology’s Expanding Concepts of Harm & Pathology Essay Papers.

MLA format

Nick Haslam
Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia
Many of psychology’s concepts have undergone semantic shifts in recent years.
These conceptual changes follow a consistent trend. Concepts that refer to the
negative aspects of human experience and behavior have expanded their meanings
so that they now encompass a much broader range of phenomena than before. This
expansion takes “horizontal” and “vertical” forms: concepts extend outward to
capture qualitatively new phenomena and downward to capture quantitatively less
extreme phenomena. The concepts of abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorder,
addiction, and prejudice are examined to illustrate these historical changes. Psychology’s Expanding Concepts of Harm & Pathology Essay Papers.


each case, the concept’s boundary has stretched and its meaning has dilated. A
variety of explanations for this pattern of “concept creep” are considered and its
implications are explored. I contend that the expansion primarily reflects an everincreasing
sensitivity to harm, reflecting a liberal moral agenda. Its implications
are ambivalent, however. Although conceptual change is inevitable and often well
motivated, concept creep runs the risk of pathologizing everyday experience and
encouraging a sense of virtuous but impotent victimhood.
Key words: bullying, concepts, moral psychology, prejudice, trauma
Writing in 1993, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, senior
senator for New York, alliterated that his country was
“defining deviancy down.” Moynihan argued that in
response to rising crime and social disorder in the
1970s and 1980s, the public increasingly normalized
behavior that would once have been seen as pathological.
Sometimes, he proposed, this process was driven
by the worthy goal of social inclusion, countering the
tendency to stigmatize people on society’s margins.
At other times it merely represented a habituation to
ongoing social change. Whatever its cause, phenomena
that had once been seen as deviant were redefined
as the new normal. Psychology’s Expanding Concepts of Harm & Pathology Essay Papers.
To Moynihan (1993), the social and political
implications of these developments were troubling.
By coming to accept crime and family breakdown, he
argued, people were “getting used to a lot of behavior
that is not good for us” (p. 30). Conservatives, he
wrote, are especially opposed to these normalizing
redefinitions of deviance because they see them as
weakening standards of conduct and loosening moral
strictures. Liberals, in contrast, are traditionally wary
of the opposite process, in which normal rebellion or
alternative ways of living are pathologized.
There is nothing inevitable about the progressive
expansion of normality that Moynihan documented.
Indeed, I argue that in recent decades the opposite process
has unfolded: The definition of some forms of deviance
has enlarged and normality has contracted.
Psychology has played a significant role in this process,
as many of the concepts it employs to make sense of
undesirable forms of experience and behavior have
extended their meanings, encroaching on phenomena
that would once have been seen as unremarkable. Moreover,
although Moynihan argued that liberals resist
attempts to pathologize deviance, psychology’s expansionary
redefinition of negative phenomena arguably
reflects a liberal social agenda. Instead of defining deviancy
down, psychology has ubiquitous it up


Psychology’s Expanding Concepts of Harm & Pathology Essay Papers.

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