The psych in psychology

Recently, I noticed a claim made on my paper had been contested by whoever marked it. Referring back to my source, I found the author was in agreement with what I had stated. To be fair, the claim is in the realm of a sensitive topic where scholarly debate is possible. The problem I have though is when I lose points because of the marker’s speculation. Hence why I don’t believe in outsourcing the grading of university papers. However, that is beside the point. It seems like the institution of “higher learning” has duped us into thinking that professionals have some grand purpose in their respective field. This is comparable to nothing more than dogs chasing their tails and passing it off as meaningful work.

Let’s take the study of psychology for example, based on Jon Ronson’s TED Talk about an anecdotal account of a man feigning mental illness to evade a five-year prison sentence. The inmate ended up spending twelve years inside the Broadmoore Mental Institution even after admitting to his deception. Although the psychiatrists knew he had been faking, the inmate’s performance was so well done he had technically fit himself into the profile of a dangerous psychopath. So, I wonder what it really takes to be diagnosed with a personality disorder. According to Ronson, the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders has grown to include over three hundred notable disorders. You would be hard pressed not to recognize any of your own faults as a personality disorder. Is it that humans are cunning beasts manipulating the system in order to evade trouble? Or are we too preoccupied trying to fit all human behavior in a nicely packaged box? Furthermore, we must ask ourselves what stake pharmaceutical companies have in the revision of such manuals. It is as though society wants to ostracize the “evil” behavior by labeling it as socio or psychopathic, and as such feel justified in washing their hands of any wrong doing. However, evil is a subjective term used by those who hold power.

Philip Zimbardo, author of The Lucifer Effect, offers a different take. Rather than chalking up dehumanizing acts to clinical disorders, Zimbardo explains how organizational contexts turn even the most average people into deprived human beings. It’s important to note that the answers to the world’s questions cannot simply be solved by wearing a lab coat. The greatest favour we can do for ourselves is to remain open minded.

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