Journal article

Concept Creep: Psychology's Expanding Concepts of Harm and Pathology

Nick Haslam

PSYCHOLOGICAL INQUIRY | ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD | Published : 2016

Abstract

Many of psychology's concepts have undergone semantic shifts in recent years. These conceptual changes follow a consistent trend. Concepts that refer to the negative aspects of human experience and behavior have expanded their meanings so that they now encompass a much broader range of phenomena than before. This expansion takes “horizontal” and “vertical” forms: concepts extend outward to capture qualitatively new phenomena and downward to capture quantitatively less extreme phenomena. The concepts of abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorder, addiction, and prejudice are examined to illustrate these historical changes. In each case, the concept's boundary has stretched and its meaning has d..

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