Session 6: Knowledge for Practice and the Practice of Knowledge
Chair: Kimmo Saaristo
Pathways to Pathologising: Does the Concept of Abnormality Differ Cross-Culturally?
Psychology Department, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
What does it mean to be psychologically normal? What criteria do people use when making this judgment and do they differ cross-culturally? To answer these questions, four studies examined the basis on which East Asians and Western Europeans judge behavior to be abnormal. Compared with Europeans, East Asians thought more holistically (i.e., perceiving connections among disparate items of information) leading them to perceive more indirect background information to be relevant when explaining abnormal behavior. This in turn caused a greater subjective sense of having understood it. Interestingly understanding behaviour in this way did not make it seem normal. Despite previous findings demonstrating this to be the case (Meehl, 1973; Anh, Novick & Kim, 2003) the present research found comprehensibility only somewhat related to other judgments of normality. Specifically, East Asians demonstrated a greater willingness to perceive abnormal behavior as rare and discrete, perceptions that also influence the judgment of abnormality according to Haslam’s (2005) theory of Folk Psychiatry. Compared with Europeans, East Asians were also more likely to hold people morally responsible for their behavior and demonstrated fewer benevolent attitudes towards the mentally ill. These somewhat counter-intuitive findings suggest concepts associated with normality (e.g., normativity and acceptability) are quite distinct, and distinguished differentially among cultural groups. As such there is more than one pathway to pathologising and more than one pathway from pathologising to stigma. Implications for public mental health campaigns are evident, as the promotion of causal information may not have the desired effect of reducing stigma through understanding. Future research should explore these pathways to pathologising as well as the implicit cultural theories (e.g., causation and human nature) on which these pathways are based.
Whose Meanings? Diffusing Sociology of Health Concepts to a Multicultural Medical Audience
Paula Feder-Bubis and Lea Hagoel
Health Systems Management Department, Ben-Gurion University, Beer-Sheva, Israel
This is an ethnographic analysis based upon our “Sociology of Health” teaching experience in an international Master of Public Health program. This class is a core course, like epidemiology and statistics. However, the rational behind its inclusion in the program is not fully appreciated by the students: How might public health practitioners benefit from studying sociology of health? Such questioning raises the instruction challenge: instructors not only present the issues, but are also expected to”prove” the relevance of sociological meanings. Students are requested to detach themselves from their fine, tangible, precise, clinical definitions in favour of multi-dimensional, dynamic and context-related concepts. For example, “health” or “the well person” are socially constructed, rather than medically defined. As such, they are differently construed by various ethnic groups.
The adoption of a disciplinary language (including such concepts) may denote the acceptance of meanings acquired. This “new” language developed spirally, from the basic sociological definitions of “health”, “sickness”, “help-seeking”, through their complexity as revealed during class discussions. Its validation stems from the applicability of these notions as depicted in the students’ examples. Since most students are clinically oriented medical professionals, adding effective meanings to their conceptual tool kit offers them the opportunity to further pursue this direction in the future.
Internal versus External Health Information Sources: Behind Current Information Seeking Behaviour
Peter J. Schulz and Maria Caiata Zufferey
:Institute of Communication and Health, Faculty of Communication Sciences, University of Lugano, Switzerland
In the past years, health information has become readily available due to mass media and the Internet. This decentralization of health information sources raises questions about patient and physician roles and about the nature of the doctor-patient relationship. In this article, we focus on the driving forces that explain the health information seeking behaviour (mainly via Internet) within the context of the doctor-patient relationship in the current social environment. As an attempt to answer this question, we report a set of initial data from a qualitative research study we are conducting in Switzerland. Our overall aim is threefold: firstly, we will describe the initial motivational conditions for health information seeking; secondly, we will clarify the rational reasons which lead patients to search for health information; thirdly, we will illustrate the social factors which influence the analysed behaviour. Data-results are obtained through in-depth interviews with patients and physicians, and have been analysed according to the main principles of the Grounded Theory.