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1998 - Volume 19, Number 3, Summer

Classification of Psychopathology: The Nature of Language
G. Scott Acton, Northwestern University
The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Summer 1998, Vol.19, No.3, Pages 243–256, ISSN 0271–0137

This article criticizes the approach to language underlying the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Concepts from the philosophy of language illuminate taxonomic problems that vex users of the DSM nosology: lack of coverage, comorbidity, and within-category heterogeneity. Exception is taken to the operationism that results in a highly artificial DSM nomenclature, raising the specter of non-referential criterion sets. A dimensional approach is recommended because it would better correspond to an objectively seamless reality.

Requests for reprints should be sent to G. Scott Acton, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Illinois 60208–2710.

Reconceptualizing Defense as a Special Type of Problematic Interpersonal Behavior Pattern: A Fundamental Breach by an Agent-in-a-Situation
Michael A. Westerman, New York University
The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Summer 1998, Vol. 19, No. 3, Pages 257–302, ISSN 0271–0137

This article begins by identifying three key features of the traditional approach to defense (its internal focus, emphasis on self-deception, and mechanistic nature) and shows how these features reflect ideas from our philosophical tradition. It then presents an interpersonal reconceptualization of defense, which is guided by an alternative philosophical perspective based on what Merleau–Ponty (1962) referred to as “involved subjectivity.” This reconceptualization, or theory of “interpersonal defense,” calls for viewing defense primarily as interpersonal behavior, attending to the functional role it plays in ongoing interactions, and recognizing that defensive behavior is a special type of problematic interpersonal pattern. Interpersonal defenses often are quite effective when it comes to avoiding clear-cut versions of feared interaction outcomes, but they make it virtually impossible for clear-cut versions of wished-for outcomes to occur, promote indirect versions of feared outcomes, and lead to highly distorted forms of wished-for consequences. They are characterized by a failure in how individuals integrate their behaviors in the context of interactions in which they are engaged as participants. This is a breach precisely in what the alternative philosophical perspective takes to be the core of human behavior. Defense represents a struggle against the person’s fundamental involvement in the world, and viewing it in this light helps us understand concrete features of the phenomena of interest. Implications of the theory of interpersonal defense for research and practice are discussed, including using discourse analysis to operationalize defensive behavior. The article concludes with the suggestion that the basis for defense involves a “fundamental fault-line” in human nature which concerns a delicate balance between integrating our actions in the contexts that make up our lives and attempting to control constraints of those situations.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Michael A. Westerman, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, New York University, 6 Washington Place, 4th Floor, New York, New York 10003.

Two Proposals Regarding the Primary Psychological Interface
Thomas Natsoulas, University of California, Davis
The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Summer 1998, Vol. 19, No. 3, Pages 303–324, ISSN 0271–0137

Two proposals regarding what the primary psychological interface is are critically discussed. (a) One proposal posits an actual overlap of consciousness and reality. The parts of the physical world that are directly perceived, or “self-given” — given themselves in person — to perceptual consciousness, are also elements of that consciousness. Each such part is supposed to have a kind of double existence, in the physical world and also in consciousness. Against this view, I argue that perceptual awareness makes portions of the physical world self-given only in their being manifested or appearing in consciousness, whereas the portions themselves remain completely external to consciousness. (b) Other authors claim that the primary psychological interface is an animal’s perceptual activity with respect to the ecological environment. But, this interface does not amount, for them, to the animal’s perceptual awareness in the familiar, ordinary sense of the experiencing of things by means of the senses, or as theoretically conceived of by the act psychologists of the nineteenth century; rather, perceptual awareness is a feature of the animal’s actions upon the ecological environment. Against this view, I argue that an occurrent perceptual awareness is a central, unperceivable product and part of a larger activity of perceiving (often perceivable in some of its other aspects or parts) and an element of the actual interface between reality and consciousness.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Thomas Natsoulas, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616–8686. Email:

The Equal Environment Assumption of the Classical Twin Method: A Critical Analysis
Jay Joseph, California School of Professional Psychology
The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Summer 1998, Vol. 19, No. 3, Pages 325–358, ISSN 0271–0137

This paper analyzes a key theoretical assumption of the “classical twin method”: the so-called “equal environment assumption” (EEA). The purpose of the discussion is to determine whether this assumption, which states that identical and fraternal twins experience similar environments, is valid. Following a brief discussion of the origins of the twin method and the views of its main critics, the arguments of its principal contemporary defenders are examined in detail. This discussion is followed by a critique of several studies which have been cited as evidence in support of the equal environment assumption. It is concluded that the equal environment assumption does not stand up to critical examination, thereby calling into question the claim that the twin method measures genetic effects on human behavior and personality differences.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Jay Joseph, 2625 Alcatraz Avenue, #328, Berkeley, California 94705. Email:

Book Reviews

Culturally Diverse Children and Adolescents: Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Book Author: Ian A. Canino and Jeanne Spurlock. New York: Guilford Press, 1994
Reviewed by Ronald K. Miyatake and Geoffrey L. Thorpe, University of Maine
The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Summer 1998, Vol. 19, No. 3, Pages 359–364, ISSN 0271–0137

[Note: First paragraph, no abstract available.] Culturally Diverse Children and Adolescents: Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment, by Ian A. Canino and Jeanne Spurlock, is a somewhat misleading title for this book because it implies that cultural (i.e., racial) differences in children and adolescents and how one takes these differences into consideration in cross-cultural health care are the authors’ primary concern. A more appropriate title would emphasize that the focus of the book is on children and adolescents from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, some of whom are also from different cultures. Many terms can be used interchangeably to describe the cultural diversity of the American population: race, skin color, minority, and ethnic group. Culture is generally defined as the values and behaviors of a specific group of people. In discussions of multiculturalism, cultural group usually refers to the race or ethnicity of a group of people. Although low socioeconomic status, regardless of race, can certainly specify a group of people, it is not generally considered a cultural group. (See Dobbins and Skillings, 1991 and Phinney, 1996, for a discussion on the imprecision in the use of terms in multicultural research.) The focus of this work by Canino and Spurlock is on four specific child and adolescent cultural populations: African–American, Latino/Latina, Asian–American, and American–Indian “who encounter multiple social stressors and whose families represent the nation’s lower socioeconomic levels” (p. 2). This last statement is a generalization that does not speak to the tremendous variability within these four cultural groups. Not all children from non-White cultures reside in economically disadvantaged inner-city families (Homma–True, Greene, Lòpez, and Trimble, 1993). In any clinical assessment of a child or adolescent, mental health professionals try to differentiate physiological, developmental, and environmental factors. Because children from minority or underrepresented groups are more likely than those from the majority culture to encounter poverty and various social stressors, the authors seek to help clinicians to distinguish culture-specific behavior from behavior associated with low socioeconomic level. Low socioeconomic status is not synonymous with minority group status. Therefore, a more accurate title for this book would emphasize working with children and adolescents from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, not culturally diverse backgrounds.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Ronald K. Miyatake, Department of Psychology, 5742 Little Hall, University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469–5742; or by Email:

Eternal Day: The Christian Alternative to Secularism and Modern Psychology
Book Author: Seth Farber. Salisbury, Massachusetts: Regina Orthodox Press, 1998
Reviewed by Laurence Simon, Kingsborough Community College
The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Summer 1998, Vol. 19, No. 3, Pages 365–368, ISSN 0271–0137

[Note: First paragraph, no abstract available.] I first became acquainted with the works and person of Seth Farber in 1993 when a student in my “abnormal” psychology class brought me an article about Farber published in the Village Voice. My student reasoned quite correctly that Farber was a kindred spirit to me because of his opposition to modern “clinical” psychiatric and psychological theorizing and practice. I was delighted to discover that Farber lived in New York City and was as eager as I was to establish contact with another professional who had also been profoundly influenced by the writings of Thomas Szasz (1974), R.D. Laing (1967), Theodore Sarbin and James Mancuso (1980), Peter Breggin (1991) and a growing number of others who saw the ever expanding lists of psychiatric terms for what they were: a degrading set of moral labels rather than true medical conditions or diagnoses. Like me, Seth had grown hoarse and frustrated trying to get his clinical colleagues to even consider that the names they called the people they were supposed to be helping, those individuals whose behaviors were socially deviant and whose motivations were hard to understand, were metaphorical diseases at best and morally damning, socially destructive words at worst. He was also discovering that psychiatric nomenclature and its attendant procedures operated as a religion rather than as a science and that the great majority of our colleagues refused to grasp the simple concept that something you have (a medical condition) is not the same as something you do (a moral or ethical issue). He could not arouse in others an awareness that their professional lives were increasingly becoming part of an industry concerned with social control rather than personal empowerment. Finally, like me, he found he was helpless in refuting the growing assumption among clinicians that these so-called illnesses were the result of genetic and biochemical abnormalities and that the “treatment” of choice was the destruction of normal brain tissue and physiology with the use of invasive surgery, electroshock induced convulsions, or more commonly, the prescribing of powerful neuroleptic drugs.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Laurence Simon, Ph.D., Kingsborough Community College, CUNY, Department of Behavioral Sciences, 2001 Oriental Boulevard, Brooklyn, New York 11235. Email:

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