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Empathy or Empathies? Uncertainties in the Interdisciplinary Discussion

Summary

The term empathy has become a linguistic commonplace in everyday communication as well as in interdisciplinary research. The results of the research questions, raised in the last hundred (and more) years, coming from different areas, such as aesthetics, psychology, neurosciences and literary theory, lack in fact a clear concept of empathy. Not surprisingly, a recent paper has identified up to 43 distinct definitions of empathy in academic publications. By reconstructing the main research lines on empathy, our paper highlights the reasons for this conceptual inadequacy and the deficiencies in the theorization of empathy that create misleading interpretations thereof. Along the line connecting Plato’s insights on empathic experiences to the present neuroscientific experiments, a broad spectrum of issues is deployed for which “empathy” functions as an umbrella term covering a net of categorical relationships – projection, transfer, association, expression, animation, anthropomorphization, vivification, fusion, and sympathy – that only partially overlap. Our paper therefore recommends that “empathy” should not be assumed as a self-evident notion but instead preliminarily clarified in its definition every time we decide to have recourse to it.

Open access
Dinesh Bhugra: a personal history of Psychiatry

Abstract

In the past 40 years, the practice of psychiatry has changed dramatically from asylums to community care to personalized home-based treatments. The personal history of working in various settings and changing NHS indicates that an ability to change one’s clinical practice is a critical skill. Being a migrant and an International Medical Graduate brings with it certain specific challenges. Personal histories provide a very specific account that is inherently incomplete and perhaps biased, but personal accounts also give history a tinge that academic accounts cannot. In this account, changes in the NHS have been discussed with regards to changes in clinical care of patients with psychiatric disorders as well as research and training.

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Geschichte zwischen Erinnerung und Phantasie / History between Memory and Fantasy

Summary

This article refers on a recent discussion with the question of the relationship between individual memory and collective history. It is claimed a constitutive role of memory in history. This thesis is examined on the basis of the question according to the value of the autobiography as a historical source. It is shown here that a reference to the collective history is already guaranteed in the relationship between memory and narrative. Four observations shall justify the arguments, they concern (i) the role of intuition in historical narrative, (ii) the relationship between historical actor and his deeds, (iii) the transcendence of memory, and (iv) the role of fiction in the historical narrative. The last observation leads at the end on the role of fantasy in the historical memory.

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Open access
Chicago: Where Polygraph Becomes a Science

Abstract

In the 1920’s, earlier work on polygraph instrumentation and procedure in Europe and the United States came together in Chicago where John Reid and Fred Inbau at the Scientific Crime Laboratory applied extensive field observations in real life criminal cases to create the Comparison Question and semi-objective scoring technique, the factors that allowed polygraph to achieve scientific status.

While Chicago was not the first place the instrumental detection of deception was attempted, it was the place where the contemporary, comparison question technique was first developed and polygraph became a science. This fortuitous development was the result of the unlikely assemblage of a remarkable group of polygraph pioneers and a ready supply of criminal suspects.

It is impossible to pinpoint when people first began noticing the relationship between lying and observable changes in the body. The early Greeks founded the science of physiognomy in which they correlated facial expressions and physical gestures to impute various personality characteristics. The ancient Asians noted the connection between lying and saliva concluding that liars have a difficult time chewing and swallowing rice when being deceptive. Clearly, behavioral detection of deception pre-dates instrumental detection of deception which, it is equally clear, is European in origin. By 1858 Etienne-Jules Marey, the grandfather of cinematography recently feted in Martin Scorsese’s film Hugo, and Claude Bernard, a French physiologist, described how emotions trigger involuntary physiological changes and created a “cardiograph” that recorded blood pressure and pulse changes to stimuli such as nausea and stress (Bunn, 2012). Cesare Lombroso, often credited as the founder of criminology, published the first of five editions of L’uomo delinquente in 1876 in which he postulated that criminals were degenerates or throwbacks to earlier forms of human development. Lombroso later modified his theory of “born criminals” by creating three heretical classes of criminals: habitual, insane and emotional or passionate (Lombroso, 1876).

By 1898, Hans Gross, the Austrian jurist credited with starting the field of criminalistics, rejected the notion of “born criminals” and postulated that each crime was a scientific problem that should be resolved by the best of scientific and technical investigative aides (Gross, 2014). In 1906, Carl Jung used a galvanometer and glove blood pressure apparatus with a word association test and concluded that the responses of suspected criminals and mental perverts were the same ( Jung, 1907).

In order to appreciate the important polygraph contributions that occurred in Chicago, one needs to first consider what was happening at Harvard University and in Berkeley, California at the beginning of the 2oth Century.

Open access
History of Polygraph in the Republic of Belarus
Open access
The schizo-obsessive disorder: a case report

Abstract

Purpose: A case of schizophrenia with coexisting obsessive-compulsive symptoms is reported.

Case: The frequency of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive-compulsive symptoms (OCS) occurrence among patients suffering from schizophrenia is considerably higher in comparison to general population. The results of some studies show that schizo-obsessive disorder is characterized by higher intensity of negative and depressive symptoms. Patients with comorbid schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder show greater level of social dysfunction and they exhibit suicidal behaviours more often than patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. We present a 33-year-old female with obsessive-compulsive symptoms with onset in her early teens with no satisfactory response to treatment, in spite of her good intellect and insight into illness and cooperation.

Comment: There is some evidence suggesting that patients with “schizo-obsessive disorder” have a worse prognosis compared to the group of patients suffering only from schizophrenia, but the effect of OCD on schizophrenia symptom profile is unclear.

Open access