Using Greggory Henriques’s article The Concept of Concept Creep as a starting place we will explore how the use of categorization can be beneficial and detrimental.
“What might that be? In one of the most important psychological articles from 2016, Nick Haslam introduces the idea of “concept creep” to help understand this expansion. He reviews six key concepts in psychology: 1) Abuse/neglect; 2) Bullying; 3) Trauma; 4) Mental Disorder; 5) Addiction; and 6) Prejudice. He offers a case study of each word, its historical and current usage, as well as debates about boundaries around the concept. He demonstrates conclusively that each of the six words have undergone significant semantic shifts, such that all six have been extended both horizontally (so as to include novel phenomena that were historically outside the boundary) and vertically (so as to include increasingly minor cases).”“The Concept of Concept Creep” by Greggory Henriques in Psychology Today from January 4, 2017
We categorize information and experiences in order to minimize mental effort and prepare for new events. Our brains are predictive organs that prepare the body in anticipation of predicted future events. The drawback is that over time what fits within a category can expand, growing to a point where instead of being beneficial it becomes detrimental.
“1) In real life, facts and values are intertwined. This is something that psychology, with its strong emphasis on empiricism, often overlooks. There is often an implicit and sometimes an explicit justification that, because we are a science, we deal in facts and values come later. Concept creep shows that this is incomplete at best and blatantly misguided at worst.”“The Concept of Concept Creep” by Greggory Henriques in Psychology Today from January 4, 2017
We create narratives, stories, to make sense of our world. These stories include behaviors that are built on the foundation of what we Value. It is important to remember that Values are not represented by a single behavior. There are many ways for a Value to be expressed, even though our stories may feature just one.
“2) Because facts and values are intertwined, is crucial to be clear about what are our values are. We need large scale discussion about values and the good life. Harm reduction is important, but it is not a foundation for value based living.”“The Concept of Concept Creep” by Greggory Henriques in Psychology Today from January 4, 2017
Reinforcing that Values do not necessitate particular behavior and that our stories are always incomplete, they do not hold the entirety of every situation/experience. We can always ask, is there another way to meet this value?
“3) Psychologists must be aware and reflective of how concepts are used by the public and how they may function to transform public consciousness. One technical approach to understanding this is called “double hermeneutic” (described here in the context of ADHD), which refers to how the ideas generated by those in the human/social sciences function to alter society and human consciousness. Psychologists and other social scientists need more education of these kinds of frames.”“The Concept of Concept Creep” by Greggory Henriques in Psychology Today from January 4, 2017
Our worldview is created from family, societal, and cultural narratives. How we view the world informs how our Values will be expressed.
Extra care must be taken with some research as it would be difficult to communicate the information in a way to remove the potential for harmful use, communication is communal creation.
“4) Although much good can come from identifying and helping victims and marginalized individuals, we must recognize that there are consequences and limits. Given that the discipline of psychology is dominated by liberals and helping, nurturing professionals, it is organized in a way that it potentially promotes a culture of victimization, which is something that requires significant reflection and concern.”“The Concept of Concept Creep” by Greggory Henriques in Psychology Today from January 4, 2017
Psychiatry has convinced many of us that our natural responses of emotional distress – via depression, anxiety, and the often waking nightmare of extreme states, are symptomatic proof that something is wrong with us that can be quickly diagnosed and should be treated like a physical illness.
There lies the problem.
The solution is to realize that emotional suffering is not proof of the individual being outside the normal range of human emotional experience. Anger is anger. It isn’t a symptom. Terror or despair or self hatred are not symptoms. Intense emotional states that can also give rise to hearing voices, or the creation of fantastical stories we weave to try and give meaning to our emotions, are also our human birthright as much as joy, peace and love are.
We all are capable of having any of the range of human emotional experiences, to any degree of intensity. They are formed by what happens to us and how our needs get met or not met.“What’s Wrong With You? Nothing. What Happened To You? Something” by Michael Cornwall at Mad in America from May 17, 2014
“The bottom line is that the enterprise of human psychology is inevitably as much about constructing a cultural reality as it is about discovering one, and this is something that all psychologists should be deeply aware of.”“The Concept of Concept Creep” by Greggory Henriques in Psychology Today from January 4, 2017