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The Neurobiological Imaginary

The Neurobiological Imaginary

(p.18) One The Neurobiological Imaginary
Chemically Imbalanced
Joseph E. Davis
University of Chicago Press

The shift toward neurobiological imaginary in lay perspectives is the most general finding of the study, the pattern behind the other patterns of meaning. An “imaginary” is not a professional discourse or system of theoretical understandings, but largely tacit and socially shared meanings that animate and legitimate common practices and understandings. This chapter explores the most prominent indicators of the shift from a more psychological to a more medicalized viewpoint. The clearest indicator comes from participant prioritizing of brain states—for example, “chemical imbalance,” “misfiring brain circuitry”—as the effective cause of suffering. Even many people who did not refer to the brain directly spoke in terms that pointed toward a mechanistic, nonpersonal way of imagining the cause of their struggles. Another indicator, suggested by dismissive views of psychotherapy and presumptions of medication effectiveness, was a way of imagining suffering without temporality, social context, or meaning. The common thread was an approach to predicament resolution that comported with a strong view of self as self-defining. Other survey and time-trend studies of public and patient views toward questions of problem cause, medication, and psychotherapy have shown similar medicalizing views, and the chapter concludes with a brief review of these.

Keywords:   imaginary, medicalized, psychotherapy, self, lay perspectives, time trend studies, brain states

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