Genetic Essentialism, Neuroessentialism, and Stigma: Commentary on Dar-Nimrod and Heine (2011)
ABSTRACT Dar-Nimrod and Heine (2011) presented a masterfully broad review of the implications of genetic essentialism for understandings of human diversity. This commentary clarifies the reasons that essentialist thinking has problematic social consequences and links genetic forms of essentialism to those invoking neural essences. The mounting evidence that these forms of essentialist thinking contribute to the stigma of mental disorder is reviewed. Genetic and neuroessentialisms influence media portrayals of scientific research and distort how they are interpreted by laypeople. The common thread of these essentialisms is their tendency to deepen social divisions and promote forms of social segregation.
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ABSTRACT: The prominence of neuroscience in the public sphere has escalated in recent years, provoking questions about how the public engages with neuroscientific ideas. Commentaries on neuroscience's role in society often present it as having revolutionary implications, fundamentally overturning established beliefs about personhood. The purpose of this article is to collate and review the extant empirical evidence on the influence of neuroscience on commonsense understandings of personhood. The article evaluates the scope of neuroscience's presence in public consciousness and examines the empirical evidence for three frequently encountered claims about neuroscience's societal influence: that neuroscience fosters a conception of the self that is based in biology, that neuroscience promotes conceptions of individual fate as predetermined, and that neuroscience attenuates the stigma attached to particular social categories. It concludes that many neuroscientific ideas have assimilated in ways that perpetuate rather than challenge existing modes of understanding self, others and society.Public Understanding of Science 04/2013; 22(3):254-68. DOI:10.1177/0963662513476812 · 1.87 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Recent interest in the role of communication in stigma creation, diffusion, and copying has inspired theorizing. This study presents the first empirical test of one model of stigma communication (Smith, 2007), with a hypothetical infectious disease alert. This study uses an experiment (N=333) to illustrate how changing several words and monitoring four cognitive and affective reactions and a personality trait becomes predictive of almost half (R 2=.49) of the variance in support for intervention policies, including removing and isolating infected persons, forcing treatment, and generating a publicly accessible map of infected persons. Message content and reactions also predicted perceptions of normative stigma beliefs toward infected persons (R 2=.26) and the likelihood of disseminating content of the alert to others (R 2=.15). Results generally support the model of stigma communication and indicate places for refinement.Communication Monographs 09/2012; DOI:10.1080/03637751.2012.723811 · 2.54 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: From Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience by Sally Satel and Scott Lilienfeld, copyright © 2013. Reprinted by permission of Basic Books, a member of The Perseus Books Group. The notion that addiction is a "brain disease" has become widespread and rarely challenged. The brain-disease model implies erroneously that the brain is necessarily the most important and useful level of analysis for understanding and treating addiction. This paper will explain the limits of over-medicalizing - while acknowledging a legitimate place for medication in the therapeutic repertoire - and why a broader perspective on the problems of the addicted person is essential to understanding addiction and to providing optimal care. In short, the brain-disease model obscures the dimension of choice in addiction, the capacity to respond to incentives, and also the essential fact people use drugs for reasons (as consistent with a self-medication hypothesis). The latter becomes obvious when patients become abstinent yet still struggle to assume rewarding lives in the realm of work and relationships. Thankfully, addicts can choose to recover and are not helpless victims of their own "hijacked brains."Frontiers in Psychiatry 01/2013; 4:141. DOI:10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00141