Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2020–21/Power in Cosmetic Surgery

Part 1

Evidence in Racial Inequality in the US Education System edit

Introduction edit

Before the Brown v. Board of Education ruling of 1954, schools were segregated and defended as "Separate but Equal"

Nearly seven decades after Brown v. Board, racial inequality still permeates educational structures in the United States, as made apparent by the persistence of an achievement gap between African American students and their caucasian peers[1]. This chapter aims to understand why, despite the fact that education is often perceived as the ground for breaking down social inequalities [2] , it appears instead to perpetuate them. By looking at the evidence used in Sociology, Psychology and Economics to explain racial inequalities, this chapter strives to present a holistic understanding of the issue.

Socio-economics edit

Socioeconomics, a sub-discipline of Economics, studies the relationship between economic activity and social processes [3]. Socioeconomics has a distinct way of understanding and explaining racial inequality in the US Education system through its use of econometric evidence.

A Pennsylvania State University researcher documented that the school funding gap between the top 1% district and the average-spending school district at 50th percentile widened by 32% between 2000 and 2015 [4]. Another study found quantitative evidence of the racial isolation in Atlanta, New York, and Detroit schools – cities with significantly high degrees of racial segregation by neighbourhood. In Atlanta where ‘black’ schools were 56% poorer than ‘white’ schools compared to 15% poorer in Detroit, the test-score gap between black and white children is nearly 5-grade levels compared to 2-grade levels in Detroit [5]. Reardon concluded that the larger the poverty rate between black and white schools, the larger the achievement gap. Thus, the issue of inequality in education stems down to economic inequality [6].

The average African-American earns 62 cents for every $1 earned by the average white American and in 2016 [7], ⅓ of black American children were living in poverty compared to 11% of white children [8]. Using the plethora of quantitative economic evidence, Socioeconomics argues that unless black children are liberated from poverty and able to attend well-funded schools, racial inequality in education will persist.

Sociology edit

According to sociologists, colour-blind theory [9] is key to understanding the persistence of racial inequality in the US education system: they argue de jure equality of educational institutions, serves as a justification for inaction, as those with the power to enact change turn a blind eye to the persistence of de facto inequality.

Inherent inequality in standardised testing edit

Standardized testing is favoured for its objective, merit-based way of evaluating students.[10] However, evidence disproves this supposed objectivity: a 2003 study shows how pretest phases with high-scoring students (who are typically white) determine which questions make up the SATs used for university applications.[11][12] Another paper points to similar issues, with tests focusing not on critical thinking but rather knowing certain conventions (such as knowing ">" means “more than”).[13] As such, the “race-neutral” approach to testing dismisses key differences between races such as distinct social capital and cultural capital, despite repeated demonstrations of their crucial roles in students’ achievement. [14][15]

Testing systematically segregates learning edit

Evidence also shows that making these tests central to consequent decision-making, results in segregated learning[16], exacerbating inequalities in education. Indeed, teaching in schools with low scores – often schools with a majority of black and brown students – is forced to focus more on test preparation at the expense of other parts of the curriculum such as music and art, and enriching ways of teaching are set aside and replaced by methods which place all focus on providing correct answers.[17] Moreover, within ethnically diverse schools, standardised testing is used to separate students into ability classes, resulting in African American students being disproportionately assigned to lower ability groups, where myriad factors contribute to low-quality teaching.[18]

Psychology edit

Inequality as a result of the teacher's behaviours? edit

In Psychology, studies have evaluated the correlation between the behaviour of teachers towards their students and the achievement gap. For instance, psychologists have explored racial discrimination in teachers, who, overall, evaluate black students more harshly than their white peers. They also tend to be less positive about their academic abilities and attribute lower grades when they speak Black English.[19] Moreover, researchers have indicated that teachers often refer non-white students to special-needs testing, whereas their white peers are more frequently assigned to gifted-and-talented testing[20]. Although the results of these studies evidence discrimination based on race, psychologists who explored implicit bias suggested that such attitudes were unconscious [21].

Implicit bias and stereotypes edit

Implicit racial associations, one form of implicit bias, refers to all automatic cognitive responses people attach to a certain racial group[20]. They are often measured by the Implicit Association Test, in which subjects are asked to press reaction keys associated with a certain image as quickly as they can. Results showed that 68% of respondents expressed discriminatory views towards black people [22], which evidenced the tendency of making negative implicit associations with black people. The study infers that since the average American expresses discriminatory implicit assumptions, an average American teacher is therefore likely to have biases which are detrimental to Black students[20].

Stereotypes, in addition to causing bias, affect students’ behaviour. An experiment found that African Americans scored lower than white students when they thought the test assessed individual capacities, but scored equally when the test was presented as a simple experiment.[23] This implies that when assessed on their individual capacities, African American students are reminded of the negative stereotypes that weigh on their culture and the fear of confirming these stereotypes if they fail gives them additional, penalizing anxiety. Similarly, researchers observed that African-American students had poorer results when asked to record their race on the exam paper[23], demonstrating that black students' confidence was undermined by pejorative stereotypes.

The racial self-esteem issue has also been assessed in much younger children[24] , which suggests that the stereotype-confidence problem comes from prejudices deeply anchored in society.

Conclusion edit

When formulating explanations for continued racial inequality in US education, each discipline draws upon distinct forms of evidence resulting in distinct conclusions. Socio-economists, relying heavily on quantitative data, argue social-economic status determines whether a student will be high-achieving; emphasising increased funding and more diverse neighbourhoods as viable solutions. Whilst Sociologists agree socio-economic status plays an important role in achievement, they have acquired further qualitative evidence demonstrating the pertinent role which family background plays in producing the achievement gap.[25] Finally, psychologists argue that internalised biases, both in teachers and students, are central to inequality in education. They then advocate the necessity to educate teachers on implicit bias and its impact on the treatment of students[24][21].

While sociology bridges both disciplines, no study integrates all viewpoints. This may be due to confirmation bias – researchers tend to focus on what they are looking for and are often reluctant to validate evidence collected with radically different methods. Typically, socio-economists may not recognise the importance of implicit bias, pointing to the subjectivity of studies relying on qualitative data.

Although each discipline presents competing claims for the best approach to address the issue of racial inequality in the education system, this chapter argues that those differences can work simultaneously to contribute to a positive solution. Evidence from each discipline must be addressed in policy-making, for their individual contributions bring to light the multidimensional nature of the problem, requiring an interdisciplinary approach to be addressed efficiently. Conversely, efforts to reduce the inequalities can only be partial and ultimately unsuccessful.

References edit

  1. Verdugo R. Trends in the Achievement Gaps in Reading and Mathematics. National Center for Education Statistics 2006. pp 3-4. Available from:
  2. Hallinan T. Sociological Perspectives on Black-White Inequalities in American Schooling.” Sociology of Education 2001; volume 74: p 50. Available from:
  3. Tarver, E., 2020. How Social Economics Influences Your Future. [online] Investopedia. Available from: <> [Accessed 1 December 2020]
  4. Barshay, J., 2020. A Decade Of Research On Education Inequality In America. [online] The Hechinger Report. Available from: <> [Accessed 2 December 2020]
  5. Samuels, C., 2019. Poverty, Not Race, Fuels The Achievement Gap. [online] Education Week. Available from: <> [Accessed 2 December 2020]
  6. Reardon S, Weathers E, Fahle E, Jang H, Kalogrides D. Is Separate Still Unequal? New Evidence on School Segregation and Racial Academic Achievement Gaps (CEPA Working Paper No.19-06) [Internet]. Stanford CEPA; 2020. Available from:
  7. Wiseman P. Behind virus and protests: A chronic US economic racial gap [Internet]. AP NEWS. 2020 [cited 3 December 2020]. Available from:
  8. Barshay, J., 2020. A Decade Of Research On Education Inequality In America. [online] The Hechinger Report. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 December 2020]
  9. Bonilla Silva E. Racism without racists: colour-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003
  10. Knoester M, Au W. Standardized testing and school segregation: like tinder for fire?. Race Ethnicity and Education. 2017; 20(1): p7. Available from:
  11. Soares J. For Tests that are Predictively Powerful and Without Social Prejudice. Research and Practice in Assessment. 2012; 7(1): p.8.
  12. Hidden Biases Continue to Produce Powerful Headwinds for College-Bound Blacks Aiming for Higher Scores on the SAT. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. 2003; 41(1), pp.90-92. doi:10.2307/3133779
  13. Sojoyner D.M. By All Means Possible: The Historical Struggle over Black Education. First Strike: Educational Enclosure in Black Los Angeles. University of Minnesota Press. 2016. p182. Available from:
  14. Lee J, Natasha K. B. Parent Involvement, Cultural Capital, and the Achievement Gap Among Elementary School Children. American Educational Research Journal. January 2006; 43(2). pp 196–199.
  15. Coleman J, et al. Equality of Educational Opportunity [summary report]. U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Education 1966: pp-602-749. Available from:
  16. Knoester M, Au W. Standardized testing and school segregation: like tinder for fire?. Race Ethnicity and Education. 2017; 20(1): p5. Available from:
  17. Sojoyner D.M. By All Means Possible: The Historical Struggle over Black Education. First Strike: Educational Enclosure in Black Los Angeles. University of Minnesota Press. 2016. p184. Available from:
  18. Hallinan T. Sociological Perspectives on Black-White Inequalities in American Schooling.” Sociology of Education 2001; volume 74: p 61. Available from:
  19. DeMeisD.K., TurnerR.R. Effects of students' race, physical attractiveness, and dialect on teachers' evaluations. Contemporary Educational Psychology, Volume 3, Issue 1; 1978. p.77-86
  20. a b c Warikoo N, Sinclair S, Fei J, Jacoby-Senghor D. Examining Racial Bias in Education. Educational Researcher. 2016;45(9):508-514.
  21. a b Staats C. Capatosto K. Wright R.A. Jackson V.W. Trends in the field: Education. In: State of the science: Implicit bias review. The Kirwan Institutes; 2016 p.33-40
  22. Nosek B, Smyth F, Hansen J, Devos T, Lindner N, Ranganath K et al. Pervasiveness and correlates of implicit attitudes and stereotypes. European Review of Social Psychology. 2007;18(1):36-88.
  23. a b Wiggan G. Teacher expectations and Ghetto Schools. In: Race, School Achievement, and Educational Inequality: Toward a Student-Based Inquiry Perspective. Review of Educational Research; 2007. p.310–333.
  24. a b Hicks V.R. Exclusionary Discipline and Implicit Bias with Emphasis on African American Students. MA Thesis. Alliant International University; 2020.
  25. Coleman J, et al. Equality of Educational Opportunity [summary report]. U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Education 1966. Available from:

Evidence in the fight against anti-vaccine movements edit

Introduction edit

Despite the common impression that anti-vaccination movements emerged through the Internet, they arose as soon as vaccination started being popularised. The vaccine against smallpox in the 1800s faced immediate hostility, seen as ‘unchristian’ and a violation of people’s personal liberty.[1][2] Although the ways of expressing and spreading this opposition have evolved, the motives behind it today are still the same, opposing public health and medicine to civil liberty and choice.[2]

Biology edit

Biological evidence promotes vaccination: the larger the vaccinated population, the better.

Yellow Fever edit

Yellow Fever is a disease prevalent in Africa that can be fatal, involving kidney deterioration and jaundice.[3] It does not have any specific treatment and is responsible for 30,000 deaths every year, with a Case Fatality Rate of 50% or higher in severe cases.[3] Being spread by mosquitoes, it cannot be eradicated, hence the importance of vaccination to reduce the number of its victims. Research has shown that the 17D (YF-17D) vaccine is efficient after 10 days in 95% of the patients, lasting for up to 30-35 years.[4] Although the WHO recommends a single vaccination, study has shown that its efficiency is limited (with only 50.4% of Malian children still seropositive after 3-5 years), suggesting a second administration is required to reach an 80% immunity of the population, preventing yellow fever outbreaks.[5]

Some evidence in the biological domain however shows harmful effects of the vaccine. Several pathologies have been linked to this vaccination, such as transverse myelitis [6], encephalitis [7], and peripheral facial paralysis [8]. Nevertheless, the vaccine remains the most efficient way to prevent yellow fever and its adverse effects are very low, going from 0.4 to 0.8 cases per 100 000 vaccines.[6]

Vaccine efficacy edit

Vaccine efficacy is calculated according to the difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated people who catch a disease.[9] According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention[10], IPV is 90% effective against polio for two doses (99-100% for three doses), making the US polio-free since 1979, the vaccine against chickenpox is 90% effective (two doses), and MMR vaccine is about 93% effective for one dose (97% for two doses) at preventing measles, leading to a 99% reduction of cases in the US.

Biological quantitative evidence therefore largely promotes (compulsory) vaccination, as the vaccines administered often have very high efficacy rates and help stop the spread of (or even eradicate) diseases. The few biological evidence used by the anti-vaccine movements often aims to show the causality between certain vaccines and diseases or infant deaths. However this evidence is often flawed [11] or irrelevant statistically, compared to the number of lives saved by vaccination – preventing 2 to 3 million deaths every year [12]- raising nevertheless ethical questions about the 'collateral damage' of vaccination.

Ethics edit

Ethics focus mainly on qualitative evidence concerning people's freedom and safety, presenting arguments that tend to support optional vaccination.[13]

Philosophy edit

Philosophy in Ethics prompts reflection on what can and cannot be done, representing anti-vaccination movements' main focus. Their concerns oppose utilitarianism [14]and consequentialism[15], highlighting the risks of vaccination for individuals rather than the overall population's safety.[16] The example of Andrew Wakefield and the Lancet MMR autism fraud illustrates this. His study in the ’90s falsely stated that autism was a side effect of the MMR vaccine,[17] resulting in an epidemic of rubella in the USA, showing the dangers of anti-vaccination movements, harming the population's health.[18][19] Furthermore, anti-vaccine activists question the government’s right to force an individual's vaccination to attain herd immunity, despite refusal[20], leading to cases like Henning Jacobson's trial in the 20th century.[21][22] Anti-vaxxers perceive vaccination as an invasion of autonomy and freedom, especially of children's rights, asking when a parent’s objection can be overcome.[23]

Religion edit

Religion is another central matter in Ethics, the freedom of belief being a fundamental right. Vaccines were long seen as evil, being considered « unnatural ».[24] Christianism for instance rejects vaccines containing embryonic origins derived from aborted foetuses, considered morally incompatible. Islam on the other hand, is opposed to certain vaccines that contain traces of pork gelatine, not being halal. Those reasons are hard to overcome in movements to fight anti-vaccination as they are more than evidence but beliefs.[25]

Internet and Social Media edit

Finally, Ethics are involved in the role of the Internet and social media,[26] which represents an increasing threat for vaccination.[27] 43% of websites on Google associated to the key words « vaccination » or « immunisation » are led by anti-vaccination movements[28][29] supported by accounts like « Beware the Needle » on Youtube or Instagram, spreading fake news that feed conspiracy theories. These websites represent dangerous content within anyone's reach, discrediting vaccination and governments' intentions, failing their ethical responsibility to inform, in addition to endangering the population.[30]

Public Health edit

Public health as a discipline is the science of promoting the population’s health as a whole.[31] It plays a crucial role in solving tensions in the evidence proposed in various disciplines, but also within them. Overall, public health professionals try to fight the anti-vaccine movement.

Compulsory vaccines edit

Governments can enforce mandatory vaccines to avoid the resurgence of a disease by promoting herd immunity, based on evidence relying on principles commonly used in Public Health. The “harm principle”, developed by John Stuart Mill, declares that unvaccinated people could be a danger to society as spreaders of the disease. Additionally, the “precautionary principle” states that preventive measures must be taken when a country is threatened by a virus.[32] These principles apply utilitarianism, prioritising the well-being of the majority rather than the individual's.[33] Hence, evidence in biostatistics, showing that punctual negative effects are negligible in front of the overall success of vaccines,[34] mirrors public health’s goal of assuring the population’s safety (sometimes at the expense of the individual's).

However, vaccine exemptions for medical, religious, and philosophical reasons exist, based on the right of the individual's choice[35], although their validity varies widely. In the United States, 43 states allow religious exemptions, while only 15 allow philosophic exemptions.[36] Overall, public health does not consider much personal choice – which is one of the arguments used by anti-vaccination movements –, and some countries like the US seek to consider ethics more by imposing less compulsory vaccines.

Education edit

In the fight against anti-vaxxers, education plays a crucial role. Today 70% of parents go to the internet to educate themselves on vaccination[37], but the overwhelming amount of misinformation leads to a confused population, often deprived of valid evidence. To educate families, trained healthcare providers [38] remind the dangers of certain diseases and explain herd immunity as well as the process of vaccines' commercialisation.[39][40]Online education campaigns have also proved to be efficient, with 66% of parents and 88% of pregnant women raising awareness and checking up on their children’s vaccination after having seen such campaigns in Australia.[41] These strategies reduce interdisciplinary conflicts, simply by educating people instead of depriving them from their free will.

Conclusion edit

Altogether, the fight against the anti-vaccination movement is far from finished, due to contradictory evidence between disciplines. Today, as the Covid-19 vaccines are facing “vaccine hesitancy” and misinformation,[42][43]it is necessary for Public Health to gain the trust of the population in order to reach enough vaccination coverage.

References edit

  1. Durbach, N. They might as well brand us: Working class resistance to compulsory vaccination in Victorian England. The Society for the Social History of Medicine. 2000;13:45-62.
  2. a b Wolfe, R.M., Sharpe, L.K. Anti-vaccinationists past and present. BMJ. 2002. 2002;325:430-432. Available online at <>
  3. a b Tomori O. Yellow Fever: The Recurring Plague. Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences [Internet]. 2004 Jan [cited 2020 Dec 2];41(4):391–427. Available from:
  4. Muyanja E, Ssemaganda A, Ngauv P, Cubas R, Perrin H, Srinivasan D, et al. Immune activation alters cellular and humoral responses to yellow fever 17D vaccine. Journal of Clinical Investigation [Internet]. 2014 Jun 9 [cited 2020 Dec 2];124(7):3147–58. Available from:
  5. Domingo C, Fraissinet J, Ansah P, Kelly C, Bhat N, Sow S, et al. Long-term immunity against yellow fever in children vaccinated during infancy: a longitudinal cohort study [Internet]. The Lancet. Infectious diseases. 2019 [cited 2020 Dec 2]. Available from:
  6. a b Bartol KD, Aguirre JL, Labruzzo SV, Henriet RP. Transverse myelitis associated with yellow fever vaccination. Proceedings (Baylor University Medical Center) [Internet]. 2019 Apr 1 [cited 2020 Dec 2];32(2):283. Available from:
  7. McMahon A, Eidex R, Marfin A, Russell M, Sejvar J, Markoff L, et al. Neurologic disease associated with 17D-204 yellow fever vaccination: a report of 15 cases [Internet]. Vaccine. 2007 [cited 2020 Dec 2]. Available from:
  8. Martins Rde M, Pavão A, de Oliveira P, dos Santos P, Carvalho S, Mohrdieck R, et al. Adverse events following yellow fever immunization: Report and analysis of 67 neurological cases in Brazil [Internet]. Vaccine. 2014 [cited 2020 Dec 2]. Available from:
  9. Zimmer C. 2 Companies Say Their Vaccines Are 95% Effective. What Does That Mean? The New York Times [Internet]. 2020 Nov 20 [cited 2020 Nov 21]; Available from:
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2020 Dec 2]. Available from:
  11. Osawa M, Nagao R, Kakimoto Y, Kakiuchi Y, Satoh F. Sudden Infant Death After Vaccination: Survey of Forensic Autopsy Files. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology [Internet]. 2019 Sep 1 [cited 2020 Dec 3];40(3):232–237. Available from:
  12. Immunization coverage [Internet]. World Health Organization: WHO; 2018 [cited 2020 Dec 3]. Available from:
  13. Ethical Issues and Vaccines | History of Vaccines. Available from :
  14. 4. Duignan B, West HR. Utilitarianism | philosophy. In: Encyclopædia Britannica [Internet]. 2017. Available from:
  15. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Consequentialism | ethics. In: Encyclopædia Britannica [Internet]. 2009. Available from:
  16. Isaacs D, Kilham H, Leask J, Tobin B. Ethical issues in immunisation.[Internet] Vaccine. [cited 11 December 2020] 2009;27(5):615-618. Available from:
  17. Hussain A, Ali S, Ahmed M, Hussain S. The Anti-vaccination Movement: A Regression in Modern Medicine. Cureus. 2018 Jul 3;10(7). Available from :
  18. Reef SE, Frey TK, Theall K, Abernathy E, Burnett CL, Icenogle J, et al. The Changing Epidemiology of Rubella in the 1990s. JAMA. 2002 Jan 23;287(4):464. ‌
  19. Giubilini A. The ethics of vaccination. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan; 2019.
  20. O’Doherty K, Smith C, McMurtry C. Hésitation face à la vaccination : considérations éthiques vues de multiples perspectives. La santé publique à une ère marquée par le doute : origines religieuses et culturelles de l’hésitation des Canadiens face à la vaccination.[Internet] 2019;:51-72. Available from:
  21. Mariner WK, Annas GJ, Glantz LH. Jacobson v Massachusetts: it’s not your great-great-grandfather’s public health law. Am J Public Health. 2005;95:581- 90.
  22. El-Amin AN, Parra MT, Kim-Farley R, Fielding JE. Ethical issues concerning vaccination requirements.[Internet] Public Health Reviews. [cited 11 December 2020] 2012;34: epub ahead of print. Available from :
  23. Salmon DA, Omer SB. Individual freedoms versus collective responsibility: immunization decision-making in the face of occasionally competing values. Emerging Themes in Epidemiology. 2006 Sep 27;3(1). Available from :
  24. Sauvayre R, Ethique de la croyance, confiance et valeur epistémique, Le cas de la controverse scientifique entourant le vaccin contre la rougeole [Internet]. Revue française d’éthique appliquée,n°8, pages 47 à 61, Cairn. 2019. [cited 13 december 2020]. Available from
  25. Pelčić G, Karačić S, Mikirtichan GL, Kubar OI, Leavitt FJ, Cheng-tek Tai M, et al. Religious exception for vaccination or religious excuses for avoiding vaccination. Croatian Medical Journal [Internet]. 2016 Oct;57(5):516–21. Available from:
  26. Chiou L, Tucker CE. Fake News and Advertising on Social Media: A Study of the Anti-Vaccination Movement. SSRN Electronic Journal. 2018; ‌
  27. Mavragani A, Ochoa G. The Internet and the Anti-Vaccine Movement: Tracking the 2017 EU Measles Outbreak. Big Data and Cognitive Computing. 2018 Jan 16;2(1):2. Available from :
  28. Hussain A, Ali S, Ahmed M, Hussain S. The Anti-vaccination Movement: A Regression in Modern Medicine. Cureus. 2018 Jul 3;10(7). Available from :
  29. Tafuri S, Gallone MS, Cappelli MG, Martinelli D, Prato R, Germinario C. Addressing the anti-vaccination movement and the role of HCWs. Vaccine [Internet]. 2014 Aug;32(38):4860–5. Available from:
  30. Johnson NF, Velásquez N, Restrepo NJ, Leahy R, Gabriel N, El Oud S, et al. The online competition between pro- and anti-vaccination views. Nature [Internet]. 2020 May 13 [cited 2020 May 13];582:1–4. Available from:
  31. Detels R, Beaglehole R, Lansang M, Gulliford M. The development of the discipline of public health [Internet]. Oxford Medicine Online. 2011 [cited 9 December 2020]. 5th edition, DOI 10.1093/med/9780199218707.001.0001. Available from:
  32. Nelson El Amin A, Parra M T, R. Kim-Farley, Fielding J.E. Ethical Issues Concerning Vaccination Requirements? Public Health Reviews, Vol 34, No 1. [date unknown].
  33. Azhar Hussain, Syed Ali, Madiha Ahmed, Sheharyar Hussain. The anti-vaccination Movement: A regression in Modern Medicine [Internet]. Cureus. 2018. 10(7): e2919 [cited 9 december 2020]. Available from
  34. Department of Health, Government of Western Australia, Comparison of the effects of diseases and the side effects of vaccines [Internet]. Australian Immunisation handbook. 2013. 9th edition. [cited 14 december 2020]. Available from
  35. Erin Walkinshaw. Mandatory vaccinations: The International Landscape [Internet]. CMAJ Medical Knowledge that matters. 2011. 183(16): e1167–e1168 [cited 9 december 2020]. Available from:
  36. Malone K. M. and Hinman A. R. Chapter 13 – Vaccination Mandates: The Public Health Imperative and Individual Rights. [Internet]. [publisher unknown]. [date unknown]. [cited 9 december 2020]. Available from
  37. Kata A. Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement [Internet]. Science Direct. 2012. [cited 9 december 2020]. Available from
  38. Tafuri S, Gallone M.S, Cappelli M.G, Martinelli D, Prato R, Germinario C. Addressing the anti-vaccination movement and the role of HCWs [Internet]. Science Direct. 2014. 20, 25, 2778-3789 [cited 9 december 2020]. Available from
  39. Arede M, Bravo-Araya M, Bouchard E, Singh Gill G, Plajer V, Shehraj A, and Shuaib A. Y. Combating Vaccine Hesitancy: Teaching the Next Generation to Navigate Through the Post Truth Era. [Internet]. Frontiers in Public Health. 2019. 6: 381 [cited 9 december 2020]. Available from
  40. Nelson El Amin A, Parra M. T, Kim-Farley R, Fielding J. E, MD, MPH. Ethical Issues Concerning Vaccination Requirements? Public Health Reviews, Vol 34, No 1. [date unknown]. [cited 9 December 2020]
  41. Gardiner D, Ffrench S and Franks A. Childhood Immunisation education campaign evaluation. [Internet]. Department of Health. 2017. ID: HEALTH/17-18/03437 [cited 9 december 2020]. Available from
  42. Lazarus J. V., Ratzan S. C., Palyew A., Gostin L. O., Larson H. J., Rabin K., Kimball S, El-Mohandes A, A global survey of potential acceptance of a Covid-19 vaccine. [Internet]. Nature Medicine. 2020. [cited 14 december 2020]. Available from
  43. Megget K, Even Covid-19 can’t kill the anti-vaccination movement [Internet]. The BMJ. 2020. 369:m2184 [cited 14 december 2020]. Available from

Evidence in "The Resource Curse" and democratic instability in Africa edit

Introduction edit

In this chapter, we explore how two disciplines rely on different types of evidence, which leads to contradicting conclusions on whether the "Resource Curse" is the main contributing factor to the continued democratic instability in Africa.

Countries by GDP (Nominal) in 2014

The economist Richard Auty introduced the idea of the “Resource Curse” and investigated countries that were rich in natural resources, but failed to grow economically.[1] The “curse” describes how these countries often experience increased secessionist conflicts, poverty and reduced GDP growth, and anti-democratic effects.[1] These components interact: authoritarian governments will be less able to resolve domestic conflicts, leading to an increased chance of conflict within the state; meanwhile, the reduced economic growth makes it harder to resolve such conflicts, and the impacts of conflict generate further economic chaos and decline.[2] The widespread effects of this vicious cycle impact many African states.[1]

Political science edit

In political science, research on the "Resource Curse" and democratic instability has been focused on utilising quantitative evidence, such as statistical analyses and models.

In 2001, the political scientist Michael Ross performed a quantitative analysis to investigate whether oil impedes democracy. He used pooled time-series cross-national data from 113 states between 1971 and 1997 and considered how the two independent variables, Oil and Minerals, impacted the Regime of a country.[2] He used the control variables: Income, Islam, OECD membership, Regimet-5, and 26 dummy variables, which account for unique factors from each year such as the effects of the Cold War.[2] This study concluded that the oil-impedes-democracy claim is “both valid and statistically robust”.[2] Ross confirmed the validity of this conclusion with the support of his statistical evidence.

A review of the developments in evidence since Ross' study shows the widespread quantitative evidence which supports this claim.[3] Statistical models confirmed the relationship between natural resource wealth and political survival,[4] as well as this effect being dependent on the strength of the initial political power in place.[5] Following panel data analysis, the idea of a "conditional resource curse" was presented, providing evidence for the long term effect of oil wealth.[6] In 2012, Anderson and Ross responded to criticisms concerning the short timespan covered by the data in previous studies [7] by stating that oil wealth only began to have an anti-democratic effect in the 1980s, when developing country governments began to capture previously foreign-owned oil rents, thus accumulating wealth for themselves.[8]

Further studies have suggested that British colonialism has had a positive influence on democracy.[3] British rule was considered a “learning experience” for subsequent democracy,[9] due to the introduction of reforms that facilitated democracy such as bureaucratic structures or the rule of law.[3] Statistical analysis showed that there is a significant positive association between former colonial influence and democratic tendency, as well as countries with democratic historical backgrounds being less prone to democratic collapse.[3]

History edit

Map of European colonies and the modern African borders
A comparison of the distribution of ethnic groups in 1880 vs a map of European colonies after the Berlin Conference

In history, evidence is based on the analysis of primary and secondary sources.[10] This results in a narrative formed by particular historical events, thus the research methods and evidence produced are essentially qualitative.

Looking at qualitative evidence from the historical past of many African countries, we see that the natural resources of a state do not induce or inhibit political instability,[11] but rather the instability is a result of historical and cultural factors such as colonialism, ongoing conflicts, corruption[12] and economic recession.[13]

The ongoing conflict results from the differences of ancestral, religious, and language backgrounds between ethnic groups. Historical analysis of the General Act of the Berlin conference[14] shows that the dissimilarity within countries is owed to the “Scramble for Africa”,[15] in which 13 European nations drew arbitrary borders as seen in an attempt to keep one another’s colonies in check.[16] There was no acknowledgement of native African territories or ethno-regional factors (shown in the comparative maps).[15] This engendered conflicts,[17] as previously, dispersed communities had checks and balances to limit authoritarian power, but were then grouped together in an unprecedented environment of corruption and authoritarianism.[18] Furthermore, qualitative surveys have shown the long-term civil, economic and emotional consequences of ethnic partitioning.[15]

Oppressive colonial governments hindered the introduction of the values of democracy, by not holding elections [19] and creating a legacy of autocratic rule.[20] Imperialist regimes also made it hard for post-colonial rulers to establish authority democratically.[20] During the post-colonialist era, bureaucracies emerged, which worsened the negative impacts of pre-colonial clientelism.[11] As a result, post-colonial, modern bureaucracies transformed into neopatrimonial states.[21] In this context, the extraction of natural resources was principally directed to benefit the patrimonial rule in power (personalised state) under the cover of an impersonal bureaucratisation.[11] In consequence, the evidence highlights how, from a historical perspective, political instability has appeared as an inevitable outcome of inheriting a flawed system from colonial rule, which had a greater impact on political instability than oil wealth and the "Resource Curse".

Conclusion edit

Political Science generally maintains the view that oil wealth hinders democracy and supports this with statistical evidence, while History speculates that there are other factors to acknowledge, such as colonialism, supported by more qualitative evidence. While experts from each discipline will agree that both oil wealth and colonialism play a part, the conflict arises in the weighting of these factors as the different causes for Africa's political instability. This problem cannot be solved by simply comparing the evidence produced, because one approach offers a qualitative exploration of history whereas the other utilises a quantitative method of calculation, leading to a conflict in evidence.

Methods exist that attempt to quantify qualitative data by calculating the frequencies of particular themes from the set of data.[22] This quantification has benefits, such as ease of analysis, providing answers to questions such as “To what degree ...?”, and allowing some comparison with quantitative data.[23][24] However, it cannot be taken as the sole result of a qualitative investigation as it can undermine the impact of qualitative data [25], due to the differences in research methods and the data produced.

Understanding the main contributing factors to the continued democratic instability in Africa is important for creating a stable political environment, and so will be of interest to a number of parties.[3] However, the differing evidence on this topic may lead to contradictory findings and incompatible attempts to resolve the issue. Here, we have recognised that the conflicting opinions arise from different types of evidence in History and Political Science, which are quantitative and qualitative respectively, and thus inherently incomparable by nature. Although they cannot be compared directly, we hope this chapter stimulates discussion on how both can be incorporated in both the recognition and resolution of problems.

References edit

  1. a b c Auty, R. M. (Richard M.) (1993). Sustaining development in mineral economies : the resource curse thesis. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-09482-8. OCLC 26633308.
  2. a b c d Ross, Michael L. (2001-04). "Does Oil Hinder Democracy?". World Politics. 53 (3): 325–361. doi:10.1353/wp.2001.0011. ISSN 0043-8871. {{cite journal}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. a b c d e Anyanwu, John; Erhijakpor, Andrew E. O. (2014). "Does Oil Wealth Affect Democracy in Africa?". African Development Review. 26 (1): 15–37.
  4. Caselli, F. (2006). "Power struggles and the natural resource curse". Retrieved 2020-12-10.
  5. Bjorvatn, Kjetil; Farzanegan, Mohammad Reza (2015). "Resource rents, balance of power, and political stability". Journal of Peace Research. 52 (6): 758–773. ISSN 0022-3433.
  6. Tsui, Kevin K. (2011). "More Oil, Less Democracy: Evidence from Worldwide Crude Oil Discoveries*". The Economic Journal. 121 (551): 89–115. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0297.2009.02327.x. ISSN 1468-0297.
  7. Haber, Stephen; Menaldo, Victor (2011). "Do Natural Resources Fuel Authoritarianism? A Reappraisal of the Resource Curse". The American Political Science Review. 105 (1): 1–26. doi:10.2307/41480824. ISSN 0003-0554.
  8. Ross, Michael L.; Andersen, Jørgen Juel (2012). "The Big Oil Change: A Closer look at the Haber-Menaldo Analysis". Rochester, NY. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. Lipset, Seymour Martin (1994). "The Social Requisites of Democracy Revisited: 1993 Presidential Address". American Sociological Review. 59 (1): 1–22. doi:10.2307/2096130. ISSN 0003-1224.
  10. Goldstein, L., 1962. Evidence and Events in History. Philosophy of Science, [online] 29(2), pp.175-194. Available at: <>.
  11. a b c Beekers, D. T., & van Gool, S. M. (2012). From patronage to neopatrimonialism: Postcolonial governance in Sub-Sahara Africa and beyond. (ASC Working Paper; Vol. 101). African Studies Centre.
  12. Shumetie A, Watabaji M. Effect of corruption and political instability on enterprises’ innovativeness in Ethiopia: pooled data based. Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship [Internet]. 2019 [cited 7 December 2020];8(1). Available from:
  13. Englebert, P., & Ron, J. (2004). Primary Commodities and War: Congo-Brazzaville's Ambivalent Resource Curse. Comparative Politics, 37(1), 61-81.
  14. General Act of the Berlin Conference on West Africa. Berlin; 1885. Available from:
  15. a b c Michalopoulos S, Papaioannou E. The Long-Run Effects of the Scramble for Africa. American Economic Review [Internet]. 2016 [cited 8 December 2020];106(7):1802-1848. Available from:
  16. Fischer H. 130 years ago: carving up Africa in Berlin [Internet]. DW.COM. 2015 [cited 8 December 2020]. Available from:
  17. Blanton, T. R., Mason, D., & Brian, A. (2001). Colonial Style and Post-Colonial Ethnic Conflict in Africa”. Journal of Peace Research, 38(4), 473–491.
  18. KAMPALA L. Why Africa’s borders are a mess [Internet]. The Economist. 2016 [cited 8 December 2020]. Available from:
  19. Fisher J, Cheeseman N. How colonial rule committed Africa to fragile authoritarianism [Internet]. Quartz Africa. 2019 [cited 7 December 2020]. Available from:
  20. a b Bayeh E. THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC LEGACY OF COLONIALISM IN THE POST-INDEPENDENCE AFRICAN STATES [Internet]. Ambo, Ethiopia; 2015 [cited 7 December 2020]. Available from:,ethnic%20based%20exclusion%20and%20marginalization
  21. Bach, D.C., & Gazibo, M. (2011). L’ État néopatrimonial: Genèse et trajectoires contemporaines. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.
  22. Ellens R. Converting Qualitative Data Into Quantitative Data [Internet]. GP Strategies. 2016 [cited 7 December 2020]. Available from:
  23. Marias R. Can Qualitative Data Be Quantified? - Green & Write – College of Education – Michigan State University [Internet]. Michigan State University College of Education. 2017 [cited 7 December 2020]. Available from:
  24. Pope C. Qualitative research in health care: Analysing qualitative data. BMJ [Internet]. 2000 [cited 7 December 2020];320(7227):114-116. Available from:
  25. Wojatzki M, Mohammad S, Zesch T, Kiritchenko S. Quantifying Qualitative Data for Understanding Controversial Issues [Internet]. Miyazaki, Japan; 2018 [cited 7 December 2020]. Available from:

Evidence in the Research and Diagnosis of Depression edit

Introduction edit

Depression is a mental illness that causes a constant feeling of dejection and low mood, which will strongly influence the daily lives of those affected.[1] Nearly 1 in 10 people suffer from it,[2] and the number of people touched increased considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic.[3] Consequently, it is an important societal issue that requires research to understand its causes and prescribe an effective treatment. To achieve this, one must understand the development of this disease: it can be triggered by many factors of different origins which vary from one person to another.[2]Thus, studying these evidences in the diagnosis of depression through the lens of different disciplines will allow us to obtain explanations on the implementation of the multiple treatments for this illness and to recognize how these evidences, while united, could result in a more accurate diagnosis.

Disciplines Perspectives edit

Biology edit

Biology as a discipline is concerned with the study of living organisms[4]. From this perspective, evidence relating to depression is collected at different levels: the molecular level, as well as the circuitry in neural systems.[5]

The study of depression concerning the circuity of neural systems often focus on the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus which are considered to be responsible for maintaining emotional stability.[6] Malfunctions within these areas are seen to be key to understanding the neurochemistry of depression. Quantitative evidence is collected with neuroimaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging and functional fMRI.[6] These techniques provide visualisations both anatomically and functionally,[7] allowing for the connection of the aforementioned brain sections factors towards depression.

In regards to the study of molecular mechanisms, most have focused upon neurotransmitters, which act as chemical messengers.[8] Depression has often been connected towards imbalances concerning these neurotransmitters.[8] Evidence for their study is largely quantitative, with methods ranging from the measurement of levels to advanced imaging techniques involving radiolabelling.[9]

In regards to treatment, techniques are not yet sophisticated enough to diagnose on an individual case basis.[10] However, the study of neural interconnections has allowed for the creation of medical depression treatments.[11]For example, antidepressant medications to treat depression are known to act upon neurotransmitters to alleviate depression.[8]

Psychology edit

File:Beck test.png
Beck's depression questionnaire

Psychology is the study of the human mind and how it influences the behaviour of a person.[12] One of the approaches to collect evidences is through interviews based on open questions between a patient and a psychiatrist.[13] These qualitative evidences can then be used to build a coherent list of the depressive symptoms patients frequently exhibit. This list is found in the DSM-5, a renowned classification used for current diagnosis and future research.[14] The Beck Depression Inventory will also be created from these evidences and the theory of cognitive distortion. It is a questionnaire of 21 questions that will measure the severity of a patient’s depression.[15]

To validate newly observed symptoms, studies are conducted comparing patients diagnosed with depression to a control group.[16]
The information generated from such studies can then be statistically analysed in order to provide quantitative evidence on the prevalence of particular symptoms but also psychological causes of depression, such as stress. [17]This quantitative analysis is next combined with findings from the aforementioned forms of qualitative evidence. Connections are then made between the different forms of evidence. In turn, this enables the diagnosis of future patients to be done in a more accurate manner. 

These studies have also proven that the etiology of depression is largely defined by the diathesis–stress model. Some people are thereby more susceptible than others to depression.[18]

Sociology edit

Sociologist conducting a study using participant observation

Sociology is a discipline which studies the interactions between individuals and their environment.[19] According to the sociologist George Brown[20] "depression is essentially a social phenomenon in the sense of being usually the result of a person's thoughts about his or her world". Thus, sociology is concerned with depression as a disease that can be explained with aspects of social life.

There are two types of sociological studies that are relevant to depression. The first examines the social elements that cause or enhances the probability of developing a mental illness, and the second looks at how society responds to these illnesses.[21] In the course of their studies, sociologists use several methods. To obtain quantitative evidence, in order to better understand the social conditions that favor the appearance of these diseases, they will identify specific groups of individuals and question them through interviews or surveys. In addition, sociologists can also go into the field to obtain qualitative evidence through observations or by interacting with the group studied.[22] By analyzing the results, this will allow them to target social factors that are highly correlated with incidents of depression, and to know the responses of the population to depression, how they define the disease and whether they choose to be cured and in which ways, thereby, to be able to guide the search for treatments.[22] According to the evidence gathered, the best way to fight depression for sociologists would be to put in place social policies to reduce the pressure on the individuals concerned and to provide more support.[21]

Evaluation of Evidences edit

Given how severe depression is, the issue of its diagnosis extends beyond simply accurately diagnosing depression in a patient, due to the wide range of symptoms between patients and factors for the disorder. However, despite major studies being conducted on this subject, the diagnosis of depression is often misunderstood, with the need for more communication between related disciplines.

Biological evidence is crucial for diagnosis as well as the development of treatments. However this approach to depression includes several limits. Firstly, the existence of certain anomalies within the brain do not necessarily imply they were involved in the development of depression within patients. Therefore, it can be difficult to draw causal relationships between particular brain structures and incidents of depression. Moreover, there are multiple types of depression and levels of severity which are not distinguishable at the biological scale.[23] The distinction between them can only result from a psychological approach. Nevertheless, the psychological studies are based on the patient’s word which can not be completely reliable and objective. Some people tend to self-diagnose, resulting in their responses to questionnaires being biased by their own interpretation of their condition.[24] Concerning quantitative evidences in psychology or sociology, an issue also lies in how they tend to result in wide spread generalisations which do not take account  the specificity of individual experiences within the area of mental health which can be a hindrance to the progress of research and diagnosis.[21]

With each discipline having difficulties in tackling the diagnosis of depression, it is important for interdisciplinary dialogue to be conducted by combining the different forms of evidence within each discipline in order to build complex models to group biological and demographic parameters which can create diagnosis subjects and connect them to different treatments. For example, evidence of biological predispositions and demographic correlations are helpful in determining subtypes within depression. However, while these models have been attempted, there have been inadequate or unsuccessful replication studies.[25] This can potentially be attributed to the different areas of focus within each discipline, making it hard to integrate all forms of evidence into one cohesive model.

References edit

  1. Mayo Clinic, 2018. Depression (major depressive disorder). [Online]. Available from:
  2. a b Parker C, Depression: clinical features and diagnosis. Clinical Pharmacist. 2012; 4(1): 222-226
  3. Robinson j. Mental health conditions Rate of depression in Great Britain doubled during COVID-19 pandemic, ONS figures reveal. The Pharmaceutical Journal. 2020[Online] Available from:
  4. Rogers K., Britannica. [Online]. Available from:
  5. Carter M., Jennifer c shieh. Guide to Research Techniques in Neuroscience.Academic Press; 2010.
  6. a b Palazidou, E. The neurobiology of depression. British Medical Bulletin. 2012;101(1): 127–145.
  7. Wang J, Yang T, Thompson P, Ye J. Sparse models for imaging genetics. Machine learning and medical imaging. 2016:129-151.
  8. a b c Nemade, R. Gracepoint Wellness. Biology of Depression-Neurotransmitters [Online]. Available from:
  9. Gryglewski, G, Lanzenberger, R, Kranz, G, Cumming, P. Meta-Analysis of Molecular Imaging of Serotonin Transporters in Major Depression. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism. 2014; 34(7).
  10. Saggar, M, Uddin, L. Pushing the Boundaries of Psychiatric Neuroimaging to Ground Diagnosis in Biology. ENeuro. 2019;6(6).
  11. Harvard health publishing. What causes depression? [Online]. Available from:
  12. Oxford Learner's Dictionaries [Internet]. 2020. Available from:
  13. Williams C., Rittman M., Boylstein C., Fairloth C., Haijing Q. Qualitative and quantitative measurement of depression in veterans recovering from stroke. Journal of Rehabilitation Reasearch & Development. 2005;42(3):277-290
  14. Kupfer D, Regier D, Kuhl E. On the road to DSM-5 and ICD-11. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience. 2008;258(5):2-6.
  15. Jackson-Koku G. Beck Depression Inventory. Occupational Medicine. 2016;66(2):174-175.
  16. Weingartner H, Cohen R, Murphy D, Martello J, Gerdt C. Cognitive Processes in Depression. Archives of General Psychiatry. 1981;38(1):42.
  17. Van Praag H. Can stress cause depression?. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 2004;28(5):891-907.
  18. Arnau-Soler A, Adams M, Clarke T. A validation of the diathesis-stress model for depression in Generation Scotland. Translational Psychiatry. 2019;9(25)
  19. Geneso. The Sociological Perspective. Sociology. [Online] Available from:
  20. George W Brown. Depression — a sociologist's view. Trends in Neurosciences. 1979; 2(1): 253-256
  21. a b c Horwitz A. An Overview of Sociological Perspectives on the Definitions, Causes, and Responses to Mental Health and Illness. A Handbook for the Study of Mental Health.Cambridge University Press. 2012:6-19.
  22. a b Course Lumenlearning. Research Methods. Introduction to Sociology. 2020[Online] Available from:
  23. Gotlib I, Hamilton J. Neuroimaging and Depression. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 2008;17(2):159-163.
  24. Kessler D, Lloyd K, Lewis G, Gray D, Heath I. Cross sectional study of symptom attribution and recognition of depression and anxiety in primary care. BMJ. 1999;318(7181):436-440.
  25. Dunlop, B, Mayberg, H. Neuroimaging Advances for Depression. Cerebrum : the Dana forum on brain science. 2017;1(1).

Evidence in Mindfulness and personal development edit

Introduction edit

Mindfulness was first presented in the Buddhist Satipatthana Sutta and has since grown in popularity as a technique said to lead to personal development, such as increased emotional awareness.

Today, the question remains as to how effective mindfulness is in personal development.

This article explores the evidence for mindfulness, and the different disciplinary methodologies for collecting this evidence, across the disciplines of philosophy, neuroscience and psychology. Some tensions exist between these disciplinary perspectives, including the lack of conversation between disciplines, inconsistent definitions and understanding of mindfulness-practise, and conflicting methodologies for gathering evidence. These issues lead to intra and interdisciplinary struggles in the formation of evidence and consensus between academics.

Evidence across disciplines edit

Philosophy edit

The Satipatthana Sutta, the foundational text of mindfulness in philosophy, communicates the effects of regular mindfulness practise, including the overcoming of grief, suffering and rumination, and the attainment of Nirvana.[1] The Satipatthana Sutta reached these conclusions using Guatama Buddha's personal experience of mindfulness. Early Buddhist texts claim that Guatama persistently meditated until he believed he had fully awakened.[2] The evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness was his Enlightenment.

Sam Harris is a renowned philosopher and neuroscientist who studies mindfulness.

In terms of modern philosophical thought, Sam Harris explains how mindfulness creates a state of mind which is "undisturbed", thus improving the "character of our experience, and therefore, the quality of our lives".[3] Philosopher Joseph Goldstein believes mindfulness practitioners become more accepting, peaceful, and less selfish.[4]

In this discipline, philosophers gather evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness through their experiences of direct participation in the practice. In his work, Harris stresses his "2 years on silent retreat" spent studying with monks.[5] This touches on the importance of the oral tradition in gathering evidence within Buddhist philosophy.[6] Whether or not practitioners develop an undisturbed mind as a result of mindfulness, they believe it to be an efficient technique, as they trust the experiences of their mentors.[7]

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Nobel peace prize nominated activist and monk, often considered the Father of Mindfulness.

Furthermore, from an eastern perspective, Thich Nhat Hanh is often considered the Father of Mindfulness.[8] A monk since age 16, he describes mindfulness as a “miracle” by which “we master and restore ourselves,” drawing upon his decades of experience practicing mindfulness.[9]

Overall, philosophers cite their qualitative experiences as evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness, rather than referring to scientific research which is now available to them. Philosophers' preference for their own disciplinary evidence may be attributed to the ambiguity in defining mindfulness in other disciplines, and that the benefits of mindfulness- such as 'Nirvana'- are hard to measure quantitively in neuroscientific research.

Neuroscience edit

Quantitative neuroscientific evidence demonstrates the personal impacts of mindfulness. Such evidence is vital in understanding the relationship between mindfulness meditation, an individual's self-perception, and their emotional processing. Neuroscientists study what they define as formal mindfulness- individuals practise specific exercises meant to stabilise their awareness of the present.[10]

Anatomically defined Default Mode Network, in which activity is affected through mindfulness meditation.

Neuroscientists use evidence of functional changes in brain activity to infer a causal relationship between mindfulness and cognitive processes relating to specific neural pathways. Berkovich-Ohana (2011) used electroencephalography (EEG) to compare three groups of mindfulness-meditators (long-term, intermediate, and short-term), with non-meditators. More experienced meditators had lower gamma wave frequency/activation in their Default Mode Network (DMN), a region linked to self-processing and 'mind-wandering'/attention. Mindfulness-practise also linked to enhanced gamma activity in posterior regions, including the temporal lobes, indicating heightened sensory awareness.[11][12] All changes represented long-term brain functions, strongly observable in meditative states, but also visible during participants' resting states.[11] This evidence suggests that the personal impact of mindfulness (e.g. emotional awareness/regulation) is the result of long-term changes in neural activity in the DMN and posterior regions, related to awareness and consciousness.

Holzel et al. (2010) studied structural brain developments in participants who partook in a Mindfulness-based stress reduction programme (MBSR), using MRI scans. The imaging indicated increased grey matter concentration (development of neurons and neural networks) in the left hippocampus and the posterior cingulate cortex of the MBSR group, associated with emotional processing, responsiveness to stress, and cognition and self-awareness, respectively.[13][14] This research demonstrates the structural effects of mindfulness, corresponding with its impact on emotional regulation.[13]

In contrast with philosophers, neuroscientists take a predominantly quantitative approach to mindfulness, which standardises participants personal development. Although a quantitative approach precisely measures the impacts of mindfulness, it does not encompass the subjectivity of the experience like philosophy does. Additionally, analysing changes in the brain fails to consider that the impacts of mindfulness may have varying behavioural manifestations across individuals.

Western Clinical Psychology edit

In contrast with philosophy and neuroscience, psychological studies utilise two different definitions of mindfulness. The first emphasises awareness- the individual focuses on their internal presence. The second definition details the intentional practice of openness and care towards others and oneself.[15][16] These definitions of mindfulness are fundamental for developing evidence to demonstrate its effects on individuals. However, evidence from individual studies has found that aiming to measure mindfulness using a binary definition creates a multitude of divided results.[16] Regardless, several psychological studies still demonstrate positive changes in behaviour, including increased hopefulness and decreased anxiety.[16]

The methodology in gathering evidence for mindfulness within psychology is both quantitative and qualitative. One frequently used method of analysis is the Kentucky Inventory Mindfulness Scale (KIMS), which has a self-reporting evidence scheme, and is replicable, to enable efficient statistical analyses.[17] The Mindfulness Awareness and Attention Scale (MAAS) is another questionnaire, which creates correlative understanding whilst incorporating qualitative methods through its' self-reporting schemes.[18] Christopher et al. (2009) analysed the progress in personal development whilst examining the use and cross-cultural applications of western mindfulness using these methods.[19][16] In examining Thai and US undergraduate students, they found that Thai students demonstrated a more cohesive understanding of mindfulness, as reflected in their KIMS results. This highlights different cultural approaches to mindfulness- the immersion of the practice in Thai culture, and the 'intermittent' mindfulness experienced in western psychology. The MAAS scale obtained similar results surrounding the two groups' personal development and their conceptualisation of mindfulness.[19]

Differing definitions of mindfulness and methodologies within psychology alter the evidence created within the discipline; an exhibition of this is the contrasting results of a study performed by Carmody et al. (2009), which detail that the evidence of mindfulness can be 'disidentification'[20] which opposes the evidence of decreased anxiety, the result of a study by Sears (2009).[21][22] Furthermore, the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods used in psychology utilises techniques from philosophy, and the scientific method in neuroscience, in the attempt to grasp the personal effects of mindfulness. However, the hybrid methodology does not include different disciplinary perspectives which prevent a necessary broader conceptualisation.[22]

Conclusion edit

The lack of communication between disciplines means that scholars don’t share a common definition of mindfulness, nor a shared understanding of its effects, leading to tensions between disciplines. Due to the different approaches to evidence in philosophy, neuroscience, and psychology, no single discipline can fully conceptualise the effectiveness of mindfulness. Different methodologies, aims, and definitions of mindfulness in each discipline's research are the root cause of this conflict. Mindfulness is, therefore, an interdisciplinary practice, and should be treated as such in the collection of evidence. This may be done by combining methodologies and the understanding of evidence across disciplines to fully appreciate how mindfulness affects personal development using both quantitative (standard questionnaires and brain scans) and qualitative data, which considers individuals' unique experiences with the practise.

References edit

  1. Nhat hanh, T. Transformation and Healing: Sutra on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. (2nd ed.). : Parallax Press; September 9, 2002.
  2. Anālayo . A Comparative Study of the Majjhima-nikāya. : Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation; c2011.
  3. Harris, S. How to Meditate. Sam Harris. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 29 November 2020].
  4. Goldstein, J. Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening. : Sounds True; 1 Nov. 2013.
  5. Harris, S. Waking Up: Searching for Spirituality Without Religion. (1st ed.). : Black Swan; 10 Sept. 2015.
  6. The buddhist society. Scriptures & Texts. The Buddhist Society. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 29 November 2020].
  7. Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W. The Lineage of Mindfulness. Mindfulness 6, 141–145 (2015). Available from:
  8. Fitzpatrick, L. The Monk Who Taught the World Mindfulness Awaits the End of This Life. Time. [Online] Available from:,an%20orange%20or%20sipping%20tea. [Accessed 29 November 2020].
  9. Thich nhat hanh. The Miracle Of Mindfulness: The Classic Guide. : Rider; 7 Feb. 2008.
  10. Esch T. The Neurobiology of Meditation and Mindfulness. Meditation – Neuroscientific Approaches and Philosophical Implications. 2013;:153-173.
  11. a b Berkovich-Ohana A, Glicksohn J, Goldstein A. Mindfulness-induced changes in gamma band activity – Implications for the default mode network, self-reference and attention. Clinical Neurophysiology. 2012;123(4):700-710.
  12. Cahn B, Delorme A, Polich J. Occipital gamma activation during Vipassana meditation. Cognitive Processing. 2009;11(1):39-56.
  13. a b Hölzel B, Carmody J, Vangel M, Congleton C, Yerramsetti S, Gard T et al. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain grey matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. 2011;191(1):36-43.
  14. Mercadante A, Tadi P. Neuroanatomy, Gray Matter [Internet]. 2020 [cited 29 November 2020]. Available from:
  15. Shapiro SL, Carlson LE. The art and science of mindfulness: Integrating mindfulness into psychology and the helping professions. Washington, D.C., DC: American Psychological Association; 2017.
  16. a b c d Shapiro SL. The integration of mindfulness and psychology. J Clin Psychol. 2009;65(6):555–60.
  17. Baer RA, Smith GT, Allen KB. Assessment of mindfulness by self-report: the Kentucky inventory of mindfulness skills. Assessment. 2004;11(3):191–206
  18. Brown KW, Ryan RM. The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003;84(4):822–48.
  19. a b Christopher MS, Charoensuk S, Gilbert BD, Neary TJ, Pearce KL. Mindfulness in Thailand and the United States: a case of apples versus oranges? J Clin Psychol. 2009;65(6):590–612.
  20. Carmody J, Olendzki N, Baer RA, Lykins ELB. An empirical study of themechanisms of mindfulness in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal ofClinical Psychology. 2009;65:613–626
  21. Sears S, Kraus S. I think therefore I Om: Cognitive distortions and coping style asmediators for the effects of mindfulness meditation on anxiety, positive and negative affect,and hope. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 2009;65:561–573
  22. a b Shapiro SL. The integration of mindfulness and psychology. J Clin Psychol. 2009;65(6):555–60.

Evidence in Video Games being a factor of Adolescent Violence edit

Evidence in the Propagation of Digital Fake News edit

Introduction edit

Fake news is the collection of shocking, surprising and necessarily false stories that come across as news, often digital. [1] The propagation of fake news has in recent years subverted political and social institutions, posing a threat to democracy and human unity. This case-study will observe the issue through an interdisciplinary lens and look at evidence research undertaken in psychology, sociology and economics. By comparing the different disciplinary perspectives on evidence in the propagation of digital fake news, it becomes clear that the most effective solutions to combat this worldwide threat will come from combining disciplinary approaches.

Evidence in Psychology edit

Psychology is the study of human behaviour and consists of biological, cognitive and social aspects. Research in this discipline focuses on the effects of one or more variables on one or more outcomes. Psychologists aim to look at how certain variables lead to a change in behaviour.[2]

To do this psychologists most commonly conduct studies that can either be qualitative (case studies, interviews, etc.) or quantitative (quasi-experiments, true experiments). The results obtained are then used as evidence to support models, such as the idea of reconstructive memory and the misinformation effect, which is when information after the event interferes with memory of the original event. [3] To provide evidence as to why people believe fake news, one study presented participants with six news reports including two fake ones. Interviewees were asked if they remember the events of the six stories. Almost 50% of the participants said they remembered the false stories, and even provided details about the fake event. This study suggests the extent to which people can believe fake news because they are recalled as real memories. It also shows that people are more likely to create a false memory if the event is aligned with pre-existing beliefs. [4] Studies have also shown that people are more susceptible to fake news that is phrased in a simplistic way (e.g. immigrants are responsible for unemployment). Furthermore, if one lacks knowledge of the topic, researchers have shown that a motivational bias may play a larger role.[5]

Evidence in Sociology edit

Sociology has been defined as 'the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society'.[6] Sociological analysis covers a wide range of social problems, changes, states of order and instability, and at different scales, from the family unit to society. It embraces critical theory as well as the scientific method of production of evidence.

In sociology, empirical evidence is in the form of either quantitative or qualitative data. Quantified data on social phenomena is conveyed through surveys, statistics and censuses. A large number of participants responding to closed questions allows for a large-scale analysis, representative of society. However, selection bias[7] – such as an over representation of men or women – is a perennial issue in such studies. By contrast, qualitative data relies on unstructured, open-ended interviews. [8] When analysing data, one can distinguish between independent and dependent variables. [9]

Utilizing these methods, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey in 2016 sampling 1,002 adults 18 and older looking at factors that could increase the sharing of fake news. Goyannes and Lavin identified the dependent variable as the probability of sharing fake news and the independent variables as demographic (age, gender, political orientation, income) and situational (how often people access fake news, unconscious sharing of fake news, who is most responsible for preventing fake news).[10] Using regression models to analyze the correlation between variables,[11] they concluded that older, Republican men with a lower income are most prone to sharing fake news. Answers as to why results like these arise may be better approached with qualitative methods.

Evidence in Economics edit

Economics is the study of how 'individuals, businesses [and] governments...make choices about how to allocate resources' based on the assumption that all individuals act rationally.[12] To gather evidence in the form of empirical results, the discipline applies statistical methods to economic theory and models, in a branch of economics known as 'econometrics'. Qualitative evidence is infrequently used within the discipline.

One of the main assumptions within economics is that firms want to maximise profit. Accordingly, many digital technology companies - from 'Big Tech'[13] to online blogs - use advertising revenue models, since their largest source of revenue is from advertising. [14] Quantitative evidence is collected on both ends of the advertising model, from the platform and from the advertiser, in order to optimise key performance indicators - that is, to maximise engagement and to achieve the most effective customer response to an advert. Similarly, beneficiaries of fake news include both the people that have adverts on websites containing fake news and the creators of the fake news. Fake news generates more attention than most news stories due to the strong reactions that it can produce, such as 'surprise, fear and disgust'. [15] Hence, according to the assumptions of economics, there is an incentive [16] for websites to spread fake news in order to direct traffic, and therefore revenue, towards their website or publishing platform. [17] For example, the 'cost per click' advertising model illustrates how, if a fake news post is 'clicked' on, the publisher or owner of the website will receive revenue, demonstrating how the advertising ecosystem benefits from the propagation of fake news.[18]

Conflicts of Evidence: informing policy-making edit

Each of these established disciplines undertakes very different approaches and methods with regards to producing evidence about the same issue. Although all three are labelled a social science, the outcomes of their individual evidence methods about this issue do not necessarily correlate.

There are clear tensions between the research methods undertaken to produce the evidence. Extrapolating results from psychology - i.e. humans do not always act rationally - contradicts a key assumption in economics; sociology because it assumes neither adds another dimension. A practical example of this is the limited impact of the enforcement by social media companies of 'flagging' posts identified as fake news. 'Flagging' assumes what economics presupposes, that the individual, as a rational actor, would naturally dismiss the post when confronted with a cautionary message. By contrast, the study of biases in psychology and social factors in sociology challenge this assumption by suggesting individuals and groups are far less independent than assumed.

Furthermore, the value of collaboration across disciplines is seen in the importance of scale in affecting each discipline's research progress. A sociology study may provide evidence about demographic behaviour on a smaller scale that cannot be extrapolated to apply to society as a whole, which is the default parameter of econometrics. The need for collaboration is also seen when evidence used and produced in psychology is often applied in economics to assess larger model assumptions from a more specific perspective.

Policy makers have recently begun to adopt an interdisciplinary perspective, as illustrated by the 2019 UK Government White Papers [19] reassessing state regulation of social media. These suggest a framework led by a varied board of academic leaders: practical proof that the interdisciplinary approach towards solving this worldwide threat to public discourse is the most effective solution.

References edit

Evidence in Tariffs edit

This is the Wikibooks Chapter for ATK 2020. Evidence in Tariffs (with particular focus upon those implemented by the US from 2016 to 2020 in response to China's economic growth), analysed through the lenses of political science and economics.

Introduction edit

Tariffs are taxes on imports of goods or services, acting as trade barriers and regulating international trade.[20] Tariffs were implemented by Trump in 2016 to shield America from cheap foreign imports.[21] This was one of Trump's most important promises in the 2016 general election and led to him winning a substantial number of votes in 2 key swing states, Ohio and Pennsylvania.[21]

In March 2018, Trump imposed tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports into the US to safeguard steel workers and those working in the aluminium industry[21] by making American-made steel cheaper than foreign-made steel.[22] As a consequence, US producers could raise their prices revitalizing the American manufacturing sector.[22] The vast majority of economists are against Trump's tariffs on China but some political scientists may justify their use.[22]

The use of economic tariffs by Trump in America to achieve political goals highlights tensions between the disciplines of economics and political science when it comes to using evidence to justify one's viewpoint. The use of evidence between the two disciplines differs in terms of the different methodologies used to collect evidence, the type of evidence (qualitative or quantitative) and the specific focus of the discipline (economic growth or national security). These differences lead to each discipline disagreeing on the value of tariff implementation.

Evidence Across Disciplines edit

Economics edit

The impact of tariffs can be determined using the tariff diagram as evidence. Imposing tariffs protects the domestic supply as the diagram depicts a reasonable surplus for domestic producers. However, the consumer surplus is smaller than if there was free trade, contrasting the positive view of tariffs held in political science. This has relevance to the US trade with China as over $550 billion[23] worth of products from China had new tariffs imposed, becoming an interdisciplinary issue due to the widespread impact this has.

The Effect of Tariffs on Domestic Consumers

From a political view, tariffs can be beneficial by meeting government aims for the prosperity of domestic trade. Economists would be against this, citing economic liberalism through free trade as the best way to ensure a nation's prosperity.[23] When Bush implemented similar tariffs, he was condemned by the EU and the WTO, as these economic organisations argued these policies did not conform to the international rules of free trade.[21] The views of economic organisations such as the EU and WTO confirms how most economists approach the issue of tariffs.

There was a negative effect on consumers as it was estimated that there were 300,000 jobs losses and a decrease in real GDP by 0.3%[23] supporting the negative view of tariffs. However, this is contrasted by the predicted increase in income by 1.2% and exports by 5% in 2021[24] suggesting that economic evidence is not sufficient alone to analyse the effects of these tariffs, especially as economic diagrams are based upon numerous assumptions relying on humans being rational, disputed by the emergence of behavioral economics.

Overall, most economists would use quantitative evidence to justify the claim that Trump's implementation of tariffs will result in economic harm to the US. The main forms of evidence used by economists involve positivist methods which focuses on the description and quantification of economic phenomena. In this example, the negative consequences of tariffs are described using a tariff diagram and quantified with the loss in economic growth.[25]

Political Science edit

Stephanie Rickard, a professor of Political Science in the LSE Department of Government, argues that Trump's metal tariffs were motivated by politics not economics.[21]

Whilst economists and political scientists both may use analytical tools, political scientists are more likely to use descriptive tools. For example, they might quote Machiavelli who emphasized the honor of the state and argue that trade protectionism is a form of achieving this.[26] This form of trade protection can be a useful way to win over voters in plurality electoral systems.[21] Quoting prominent political theorists like Machiavelli is a form of testimonial evidence in which expert opinions support a given argument.[27]

Furthermore, realist political thinkers believe that cooperation between countries is too idealist and so would be in favor of imposing tariffs to protect the interests of the nation state, in this case, the US.[28] They use evidence such as China's influence over the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the corona virus pandemic as an example of how cooperation between states via organisation rarely works.[28] This is a form of analogical evidence as it involves comparing the issue of tariffs to the WHO. Critics point out that this form of evidence is weak because it assumes the two cases are comparable. However, it is often the case in political science that analogical evidence is the only way of substantiating a specific claim.[29]

Trump used Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, a law regarding national security, to justify this form of economic protectionism.[21] Defensive structural realists, a type of political scientist, believe that the state should be protected and would be in favor of these tariffs as they reduce interdependence with competitors and focus on state security.[30] This shows how some political scientists value the sociopolitical security from the tariffs regardless of the economic consequences.

Overall, some political scientists would use evidence to demonstrate their support Trump's tariffs against China, specifically qualitative evidence collected via normative methods, in which political decisions are judged to be either desirable or undesirable as well as analogical and testimonial evidence.[31]

Conclusion edit

Economics and political science disagree in terms of the desired outcome: economic efficiency and profit compared to meeting political goals. The main tensions between the disciplines include economics tending to favor positivist methods that seek to explain the world whereas political scientist generally favor normative methods which seek to make judgement upon and improve the world. The differences in methodology result in different conclusions for whether or not tariffs should be implemented. Additionally, conflicts exist between the two disciplines because they value different things. Whilst economists focus on describing the welfare of the US, political scientists may focus on the security of the US more leading to opposing conclusions of tariff implementation. Therefore, different areas of concern for each discipline results in different forms of evidence and ultimately different conclusions.

Tensions exist between political science and economies due to the disciplines clashing when determining who should benefit. Analysing this economic trade war has shown how this dispute can not be easily solved as fundamentally, within both disciplines, what constitutes evidence is affected by both quantitative and qualitative factors shown by the need for economic and political theories. Overall, evidence suggests that these tariffs resulted in a beneficial outcome as they fulfilled Trump's political agenda despite negative consequences for consumers.

Overall, it is clear that an interdisciplinary approach is needed to evaluate evidence from different disciplines to solve world problems.

References edit

  1. Definition of Fake News, Cambridge Dictionary. Available from:
  2. McLeod S. Qualitative vs Quantitative Research [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2 December 2020]. Available from:
  3. Cherry K. How Does Misinformation Influence Our Memories of Events? [Internet]. Verywell Mind. 2020 [cited 31 November 2020]. Available from:
  4. Fake news can lead to false memories [Internet]. EurekAlert!. 2019 [cited 3 December 2020]. Available from:
  5. Kruglansky A. Why do People Believe Fake News? [Internet]. World Government Summit. 2018 [cited 2 December 2020]. Available from:
  6. Definition of Sociology, Oxford Dictionaries. Available from:
  7. Selection Bias Article, At Work Newsletter, Institute for Work and Health, 2014, Vol. 76. Available from:,and%20cross%2Dsectional%20studies)
  8. Kirby, Sociology in Perspective, Heinemann Educational Publishers, 2000, p.343. Available from:
  9. The Basics — 3312, Department of Sociology, University of Utah. Available from:,dependent%20variable%20in%20some%20way.
  10. Goyanes, Lavin, The Sociology of Fake News, Media@LSE, 2018, p.6-11 Available from:
  11. Altman, Krzywinski, Simple linear regression, Nature Methods, Nature Journal, 2015. Available from:
  12. Guide to Economics [Internet]. Investopedia. 2020 [cited 2 December 2020]. Available from:
  13. Lekkas N. The Big Five Tech Companies: Big Tech Facts (FAAMG) [Internet]. GrowthRocks. 2020 [cited 4 December 2020]. Available from:
  14. Jacobs R. Why fake news is bad for business [Internet]. Chicago Booth Review. 2018 [cited 1 December 2020]. Available from:
  15. Chadwick P. Why fake news on social media travels faster than the truth | Paul Chadwick [Internet]. the Guardian. 2018 [cited 1 December 2020]. Available from:
  16. Braun J. Fake News, Real Money: Ad Tech Platforms, Profit-Driven Hoaxes, and the Business of Journalism [Internet]. Taylor & Francis Online. 2019 [cited 3 December 2020]. Available from:
  17. How do fake news sites make money? [Internet]. BBC News. 2017 [cited 6 December 2020]. Available from:
  18. Juneja P. Introduction to Online Advertising Models [Internet]. [cited 2 December 2020]. Available from:
  19. Woodhouse J. Social media: How much regulation is needed? [Internet]. House of Commons Library. 2019 [cited 3 December 2020]. Available from:
  20. Kenton, W., 2019. Tariff. [online] Investopedia. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 May 2020].
  21. a b c d e f g Rickard, S., 2018. LSE US Centre. [Blog] What provoked Trump’s tariffs: politics or economics?, Available at: <> [Accessed 3 December 2020]
  22. a b c Trade wars, Trump tariffs and protectionism explained [Internet]. BBC News. 2019 [cited 10 May 2009]. Available from:
  23. a b c Denmark R. More pain than gain: How the US-China trade war hurt America [Online]. Brookings. 2020 [cited 3 December 2020]. Available from:
  24. VOX, CEPR Policy Portal [Online]. 2020 [cited 3 December 2020]. Available from:
  25. Durlauf S, Blume L. The new Palgrave dictionary of economics. Basingstoke, Hampshire [U.K.]: Palgrave Macmillan; 2008.
  26. Nederman C. Niccolò Machiavelli [Internet]. 2019 [cited 9 December 2020]. Available from:
  27. Van Wietmarschen H. Political testimony. Sage Journals [Internet]. 2018 [cited 7 December 2020];18(1):1-5. Available from:
  28. a b Antunes S. Introducing Realism in International Relations Theory [Internet]. E-International Relations. 2018 [cited 9 December 2020]. Available from:
  29. Welsh S. The Value of Analogical Evidence: Poe's "Eureka" in the Context of a Scientific Debate. Modern Language Studies. 1991;21(4):3.
  30. Tripp E. Realism: The Domination of Security Studies [Internet]. E-International Relations; 2013 [cited 14 December 2020]. Available from:
  31. Pietrzyk-Reeves, D., 2017. Normative Political Theory. Teoria Polityki, 1.


Evidence in the Production and Consumption of the Palm Oil Boom edit

Introduction edit

The palm oil boom began in the 1970s to meet the rapidly growing demand for vegetable oil[1].

A high-yielding crop with versatile applications, palm oil has become deeply embedded in our economy, used for human consumption, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and biofuel[2]. Moving from a multidisciplinary to interdisciplinary approach on the basis of evidence enables a comprehensive understanding of the surge in palm oil consumption and the resulting economic, ecological, nutritional and sociological effects.

Evidence in Economics edit

Economic evidence is largely quantitative.[3] Empirical research provides the basis for building economic models for causal inference.

Selling red palm oil in a market

International trade of palm oil is the dominant macroeconomic indicator of the growing industry's impact[1]. Net exports, a component of GDP, is the most common model used to measure national economic growth. Thus, in export-led economies where palm oil production constitutes a large proportion of net exports, trade data is an informative form of evidence. Economists calculate net exports of palm oil using trade estimations from[4]:

1. Customs records, as outlined by the International Merchandise Trade Statistics (IMTS) Manual.

2. National accounts, by accounting for economic ownership of the palm oil, as outlined in the IMTS Manual.

Economists analysing the microeconomic impacts of the palm oil industry collect evidence by dissecting the market into its stakeholders and applying models to assess the benefits to these groups from the growing palm oil sector[5].

For example, studying palm oil workers, a classical supply and demand model would suggest the following:

↑ Demand for palm oil → ↑ Demand for labour in corresponding labour market → Upwards pressure on wages → ↑ Income of workers

These models can be checked against empirical data, for example the change in wages of palm oil workers can be compared to those in other commodity industries, to give the model credibility.

Evidence in Ecology edit

Ecology relies on quantitative research methods to understand the relationship between living organisms and the environment[6].

Deforestation, a major concern of the palm oil boom, has been observed and recorded by ecologists using satellite imaging[7][8][9]. High-resolution images captured from satellites, like Landsat, collect data on land use and environmental change[10][11] as a result of palm oil plantations. Tools like unsupervised classification, visual classification, and observation of spectral characteristics are used to quantify the plantation area[7][8][9]. This identification process is repeated on datasets of satellite images from different time periods to compare changes of land use over time. Statistical models and formulas then calculate the rate of deforestation[8].

Through this methodology, ecologists are able to gather evidence on the statistically significant rates of deforestation due to the spatial expansion of palm oil plantations. A limitation of this methodology is its reliance on computer algorithms that may either mistakenly identify other vegetation as oil palm or are unable to detect oil palm because of the spacing between trees[9].

Evidence in Nutrition edit

Nutrition, the process of assimilating food, is linked to the health impact of palm oil on consumers[12]. Nutritional evidence is obtained through scientific research, experiments, and clinical trials[13]. These methods are usually integrated, analysing palm oil itself and then experimenting and observing its effects on subjects to understand the influence of palm oil on lipids in blood as compared to other oils. Differing trials were led with different parameters varying the participants' characteristics, sample size, and intervention characteristics. Their reliability can be assessed on the Jadad scale used for clinical trials[14]. The method used is observing the impact on the body through regular intake of palm oil and integrating it into the subject's diet. Researchers analysed the principal fatty acids in palm oil[15] and how they impacted functions of the body, e.g. body weight, metabolic rate and blood pressure.

Clinical trials have demonstrated that consuming fresh palm oil has benefits such as the intake of vitamin A and E and reducing lipid distribution in the body, however, there are risks to palm oil when not consumed fresh[16][17][18].

Evidence in Sociology edit

Sociologists, who study the social aspects of palm oil[19], also investigate its nutritional impact, although using different evidence: interviews, ethnography, survey research, and systematic observation[1]. They typically use household surveys, presenting structured questionnaires to households chosen by multistage random sampling procedures[20].

Making Palm Oil in the Democratic Republic of Congo[21]

The collected data is then analysed to form descriptive and inferential statistics, which mostly demonstrate positive impacts on producing communities.

Household surveys were utilised to investigate farm household diets. Unlike nutritionists who find quantitative evidence, sociologists collected face-to-face interview responses to a structured questionnaire to estimate and record calorific consumption and dietary composition of oil farm workers – utilising social, rather than scientific, indicators for wellbeing[22].

Researchers may employ the Social Life-Cycle Assessment to examine the social impacts of a product’s production[23]. In Malaysia, researchers identified two key stakeholders, palm oil plantation workers and local communities. These stakeholders completed a set of questionnaire interviews regarding topics including discrimination, health and safety, and social benefit[24]. Questions were structured on a five-point Likert Scale to examine the difference between expected and perceived quality of each criterion. Once descriptively analysed, the data suggested production has positive impacts, with affirmative outcomes in most sub-categories[24].

Disciplinary Tensions edit

Finding cohesion in the evidence presented by individual disciplines is the biggest challenge to understanding the impact of the palm oil boom with an interdisciplinary approach. This is due to the disparity between disciplines themselves: Economics studies decision-making within markets, organisations, and countries[25]; sociology, human social behaviour[19]; ecology, the relationship between living organisms and ecosystems[6]; and nutrition, nutrients in relation to an organism's functioning[26]. Therefore, each discipline examines divergent aspects of the issue. Consequently, methodologies and the evidence collected in each discipline often conflict, creating difficulties in integrating the disciplines to form a conclusion regarding the impact of the palm oil boom.

For example, nutritionists and sociologists examine the dietary implications of palm oil; however, while nutritionists use quantitative methods like clinical trials to study the biological impact, sociologists use qualitative research like interviews to examine different indicators, such as households' fruit and vegetable intake. Integrating these findings is difficult as they have conflicting focuses and types of evidence.

Tensions also arise between disciplines with inherent methodological differences, complicating combining data. Economics uses models that simplify reality, limiting the number of variables considered and externalities accounted for[27]. Applying a simplified model like GDP when analysing the palm oil sector contrasts with research in the natural sciences, specifically ecology, where raw data provides positivist evidence, relative to a more constructivist economic approach.

Assumptions between disciplines may also conflict. Economics fundamentally assumes human rationality[28]. Sociologists reject this idea, instead explaining human behaviour as a product of social factors, thus not always rational[29]. They suggest, for example, that social forces influence the diet of palm oil farmers. This highlights the problem - to what extent can we integrate two disciplines whose findings don't necessarily conflict yet have opposing fundamental assumptions?

While it is difficult to compare the outcomes of research due to the nature of the evidence itself, taking an interdisciplinary approach to this issue allows a more complete understanding. Integrating evidence to tackle this issue allows an inter-disciplinarian to interpret that despite negative ecological impacts, there are important positive social, economic, and nutritional impacts of the palm oil boom to consider.

References edit

  1. a b c Qaim, Matin; Sibhatu, Kibrom T.; Siregar, Hermanto; Grass, Ingo (2020-10-06). "Environmental, Economic, and Social Consequences of the Oil Palm Boom". Annual Review of Resource Economics. 12 (1): 321–344. doi:10.1146/annurev-resource-110119-024922. ISSN 1941-1340.
  2. Sanders, Daniel; Balagtas, Joseph; Gruere, Guillaume (2012). "Revisiting the palm oil boom in Southeast Asia: The role of fuel versus food demand drivers". International Food Policy Research Institute. Retrieved 2020-12-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. Joffe, Michael (2017-01-01). Watson, Duncan (ed.). "Causal theories, models and evidence in economics—some reflections from the natural sciences". Cogent Economics & Finance. 5 (1): 1280983. doi:10.1080/23322039.2017.1280983.
  4. Oritz-Ospina, Esteban; Beltekian, Diana (2018-06-05). "International trade data: why doesn't it add up?". Our World in Data. Retrieved 2020-12-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. Publications Office of the European Union (2018-03-19). "Study on the environmental impact of palm oil consumption and on existing sustainability standards : final report and appendices". Retrieved 2020-12-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. a b "What Is Ecology? – The Ecological Society of America". Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  7. a b Vijay, Varsha; Pimm, Stuart L.; Jenkins, Clinton N.; Smith, Sharon J. (2016-07-27). "The Impacts of Oil Palm on Recent Deforestation and Biodiversity Loss". PLOS ONE. 11 (7): e0159668. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0159668. ISSN 1932-6203.
  8. a b c Viña, Andrés; Echavarria, Fernando R.; Rundquist, Donald C. (2004). "Satellite Change Detection Analysis of Deforestation Rates and Patterns along the Colombia – Ecuador Border". AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment. 33 (3): 118–125. doi:10.1579/0044-7447-33.3.118. ISSN 0044-7447.
  9. a b c Danylo, Olga; Pirker, johannes; Lemoine, Guido; Ceccherini, Guido; See, Linda; McCallum, Ian; hadi; Kraxner, Florian; Archard, Frederic; Fritz, Steffen (2020-02-17). "Satellite reveals age and extent of oil palm plantations in Southeast Asia" – via Research Gate. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. United States Geological Survey. "What is the Landsat satellite program and why is it important?". Retrieved 2020-12-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. Jenner, Lynn (2015-04-01). "Landsat Overview". NASA. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
  12. "nutrition: Definition, Importance, & Food" (in en). Encyclopedia Britannica. 
  13. Bosch, V; Aular, A; Medina, J; Ortiz, N; Apitz, R (01 Jun 2002). "Changes in of plasma lipoproteins after the use of palm oil in the diet of a group healthy adults". Archivos Latinoamericanos de Nutricion. 
  14. Sun, Ye; Neelakantan, Nithya; Wu, Yi; Lote-Oke, Rashmi; Pan, An; van Dam, Rob M (20 May 2015). "Palm Oil Consumption Increases LDL Cholesterol Compared with Vegetable Oils Low in Saturated Fat in a Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials". The Journal of Nutrition (Volume 145, Issue 7,): pp. 1549–1558. doi:10.3945/jn.115.210575. 
  15. Ebong, P.E.; Owu, D.U.; Isong, E.U. (1 September 1999). "Influence of palm oil ( Elaesis guineensis) on health" (in en). Plant Foods for Human Nutrition: pp. 209–222. doi:10.1023/A:1008089715153. 
  16. Marangoni, Franca; Galli, Claudio; Ghiselli, Andrea; Lercker, Giovanni; Vecchia, Carlo La; Maffeis, Claudio; Agostoni, Carlo; Ballardini, Donatella et al. (18 August 2017). "Palm oil and human health. Meeting report of NFI: Nutrition Foundation of Italy symposium". International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition: pp. 643–655. doi:10.1080/09637486.2016.1278431. 
  17. Zhang, Jian; Ping, Wang; Chunrong, Wang; Shou, Chen Xiao; Keyou, Ge (1 March 1997). "Nonhypercholesterolemic Effects of a Palm Oil Diet in Chinese Adults". The Journal of Nutrition: pp. 509S–513S. doi:10.1093/jn/127.3.509s. 
  18. Kadandale, Sowmya; Marten, Robert; Smith, Richard (February 2019). "The palm oil industry and noncommunicable diseases" (in en). Scholarly Journals. World Health Organization. Bulletin of the World Health Organization (ProQuest) (Geneva Vol. 97, N° 2): pp. 118-128. doi:10.2471/BLT.18.220434. 
  19. a b UNC Greensborough. "What do Sociologists Study? | Sociology". UNC Greensborough. Retrieved 2020-12-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. Obidzinski, Krystof; Andriani, Rubeta; Komarudin, Heru; Andrianto, Agus (2012). "Environmental and Social Impacts of Oil Palm Plantations and their Implications for Biofuel Production in Indonesia". Ecology and Society. 17 (1). doi:10.5751/es-04775-170125. ISSN 1708-3087.
  22. Sibhatu, Kibrom T. (2019). "Oil Palm Boom and Farm Household Diets in the Tropics". Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. 3. doi:10.3389/fsufs.2019.00075. ISSN 2571-581X.
  23. Life Cycle Initiative. "Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) – Life Cycle Initiative". Retrieved 2020-12-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. a b Muhammad, Khairul Izzuddin; Sharaai, Amir Hamzah; Ismail, Mohd Mansor; Harun, Rosta; Yien, Wong Siew (2018-10-18). "Social implications of palm oil production through social life cycle perspectives in Johor, Malaysia". The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. 24 (5): 935–944. doi:10.1007/s11367-018-1540-y. ISSN 0948-3349.
  25. tutor2u (2020-12-09). "Nature of Economics - Introductory Concepts". tutor2u. Retrieved 2020-12-10.
  26. Newman, Tim (2020-01-09). "Nutrition: Nutrients and the role of the dietitian and nutritionist". Retrieved 2020-12-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. Stiglitz, Joseph E. (2002). "Information and the Change in the Paradigm in Economics". The American Economic Review. 92 (3): 460–501. ISSN 0002-8282.
  28. Hayes, Adam (2020-02-26). "Rational Behavior Definition". Investopedia. Retrieved 2020-12-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  29. Radford University. "Why Study Sociology | Sociology | Radford University". Retrieved 2020-12-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Evidence in Measuring Workplace Happiness edit

Introduction edit

Modern perspectives on happiness tend towards defining "purpose" in one's life. The Japanese, for example, qualify happiness through their idea of Ikigai, "that which makes one's life worth living", focusing on four main areas of life.[1] (Note that "well-being" differs from happiness, which forms a part of overall well-being). This Wikibook chapter will explore the use of evidence in measuring workplace happiness, as well as the tensions arising between different disciplinary perspectives.

Quantifying Evidence – Disciplinary Perspectives edit

Economics edit

Gross National Happiness and Macroeconomic Indicators in the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Economists place value on quantitative data, using surveys, self-assessment scales and measurement tools such as the Day Reconstructing Method and Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Index.[2][3] Tensions can arise with other disciplines as economists focus selectively on empirical data,[4] which lacks subjective context, treating happiness purely as a calculation.[5][6]

Previously unavailable, big datasets now provide empirical evidence that higher income correlates with higher happiness.[7] This is true cross-nationally, enabling "reassessment" of the Easterlin Paradox,[8][9] the idea that money doesn't buy happiness, and that more money to a poor person means more than it does a rich person. Company bosses use this evidence and implement pay increases tapered to benefit lower-incomes more than higher. The hope here is that happiness is "endogenous": engendering productivity and conscientiousness (Pinker, 2018),[10] partially fulfilling a need to feel valued to feel happier. The evidence also refutes the earlier idea that $75,000 is the optimal happiness and income level above which happiness growth slows.[11]

Psychology edit

Happiness pie chart with percentages, based on the Happiness formula of Lyubomirsky, Shkade, Sheldon and Seligman.

Modern Positive Psychologists established the Happiness Formula of H = C + V + S: C being conditions of your life; V being Volunteering that you do and daily choices you make; and S being your biological set point.[12] Meditation, under the “eightfold noble path” (Haidt, 2006) helps with the V because it reduces attachment and cultivates acceptance.[13] Happiness has been defined as “the form of pleasant moods and emotions, well‐being, and positive attitudes” (Fisher, 2010),[14] and being happy at work has been shown to be an important factor in workplace advancement. Fisher established the key variables in measuring workplace happiness as job satisfaction, engagement and organisational loyalty, all of which can be measured both subjectively and empirically across a timeframe, concerning a unitary or collective subject.[14][15]

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy works to rationalise and not catastrophise behaviours, asking questions like "what's the worst that could happen?" and "has it ever happened?" to change behaviours through changing thought patterns. This has been evidenced through Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) and implemented in workplace settings to reduce stress amongst employees.[16] A major method of evidence retrieval in psychology is self-reporting, consisting of single or multi-faceted questionnaires given to respondents through RCTs or on case-by-case bases, for example the Job Descriptive Index,[17] or the Utrecht Work Enthusiasm Scale.[18]

Psychology raises both intra- and inter-disciplinary tensions. Within psychology, twin studies have shown that genetic factors account for 35-50% of our happiness levels.[19] This disproved early Freudian theory , favouring quantitative genetic data over subjective and qualitative analysis methods, raising tensions between psychologists as quantitative data continues to be held in increasingly high regard.[20] Psychology emphasises reasons for behaviour rather than outcomes,[21] with data typically being more subjective.[22] However, evidence used in happiness economics is largely quantitative: mathematical models predict behaviour with happiness as the desired outcome.[22] These types of data are seen in stark contrast to one another,[22] ultimately leading to disharmony, perpetuating interdisciplinary tension further.

Neuroscience edit

Neuroscientific studies have been conducted into workplace happiness, demonstrating the interactions of neurotransmitters and the impact these have on happiness levels.[23]

Recent research by neuroeconomist Paul Zak found that an increased level of the hormone and neurotransmitter oxytocin leads to an increased level of trust, efficiency and workplace productivity, in turn resulting in higher levels of happiness.[24] This was proven with empirical evidence, as blood samples were used to quantify oxytocin levels in social interactions.[25]

The evidence shows dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is a strong contributor to workplace happiness.[26] Higher levels of dopamine in the brain have been correlated with higher levels of workplace motivation and happiness.[27] Lower levels of motivation are linked to psychiatric disorders like depression and increased risk of Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders.[28][29] The evidence used to quantify dopamine levels is empirical, using Positron Emission Tomography (PET scanning) to map, analyse and quantify neurotransmitter levels in different parts of the brain.[30]

Tensions also exist between psychology and neuroscience. Psychology was historically the more sociological discipline, with neuroscience relying on biological principles.[31] Neuroscience is based on the concept of 'eliminative reductionism', meaning many neuroscientists believe that neural analysis could replace psychological analysis. Psychologists label humans as complex systems, and believe that brain function can't simply be reduced to neural functions, but rather is influenced by a whole range of biological, social and cultural factors.[31] Here lies an obvious tension, due to two opposing fundamental principals (reductionism vs holism), and the consequent effect on research methodology and formation of evidence.[32]

Anthropology edit

Ikigai And Dimensions For A Balanced Life

Cultural, societal and geographical constructs of happiness hold the same communalities, what the Japanese call 'Ikigai',[33] the Danish 'Hygge',[34] for example. Humans are happier when they are fit, healthy, loved, safe, comfortable and socially connected (not lonely),[35] which are critical considerations for workplace happiness. These factors can be measured by anthropologists through qualitative data, helping to understand the role of meaning and value in happiness,[36] which are variables often excluded when just focusing on quantitative measures.

Smaller societies feel happier if they have cultural autonomy within an advancing, modern world. Many young, single, white, males have experienced high levels of unhappiness during lockdown[37][38] and look forward to going to work for interpersonal contact, upon which mental health is dependent. Happiness differs between the generations: happiness at twenty is different to that at forty and at sixty as vested interests evolve and sociocentric orientations are challenged by globalisation.[39] Anthropology has been a cultural critique of disciplines and what's best for humans and what's best for the State.[40]

Anthropology almost keeps a restraining hand on quantitative happiness measurements.[41] Sustainable emotional well-being of employees is a crucial contributing factor to workplace happiness; its positive effects can lead to increased productivity, resilience and engagement.[36] Economic measures alone cannot quantify happiness, so applying an anthropological perspective could provide an overview of what makes humans happy, combining all the interdisciplinary evidence available and applying those conditions to the workplace. While the sciences, including economics, value empirical evidence, anthropology values qualitative ethnographic evidence. These differences can be overcome by combining cross-cultural statistics,[42] which offer more nuanced understandings of local differences.

Conclusion edit

Disciplines approach the epistemology and ontology of evidence in different ways, creating incongruity in what constitutes evidence and how evidence is defined, leading to interdisciplinary tensions.

These contrasting beliefs pose challenges when it comes to measuring workplace happiness. While individual disciplines can provide unique perspectives, the search for clearer common ground continues. Taking a more comprehensive approach to measuring happiness, combining the subjective nature of qualitative data with quantitative data would be the ideal interdisciplinary solution. Evidence needs to be integrated holistically, but perspectivism between the disciplines slows the process of collaboration.

References edit

Evidence in the Plastic Continent edit

Evidence in the World Happiness Report edit

Evidence in The World Happiness Report edit

Established by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the World Happiness Report (WHR) is an annual publication, written by experts in various fields, that utilises data primarily provided by Gallup to rank and assess national happiness levels of over 150 countries.[43][44]

Methodology edit

Ranking of Happiness 2017-2019 - Top 20 Countries[45]

The Gallup World Poll is a survey completed by at least 1000 citizens per country. Its results are used to generate indices that cover various social, economic, and political topics, such as Life Evaluation, Personal Health, and Personal Economy.

The Cantril Ladder scale forms the basis of the Life Evaluation index. It asks participants to place themselves on an imaginary "ladder with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top" where "the top of the ladder represents the best possible life for [them] and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for [them]".[46] The calculated national averages (0-10) are the values used in the WHR's 'Ranking of Happiness'.[44]

Using the World Poll indices and additional supplementary data, the WHR evaluates how these 6 key factors affect a nation’s well-being:[44]

  • GDP per capita;
  • social support;
  • healthy life expectancy;
  • freedom to make life choices;
  • generosity;
  • perceptions of corruption.

Disciplinary Evidence edit

Psychology edit

In Psychology, the study of the concept of Happiness is mainly conducted through the construction of various theories, while the evidence of happiness itself is generally based on behaviour assessments and surveys.[47] Criteria often studied in Psychology, such as "generosity" and "freedom of making life choices", play an important part in the assessment of happiness in the WHR.

In some instances, to be able to assess the actual level of happiness in individuals, psychologists collect data on their physical behaviour and then construct statistics based on said data. These behaviours include but are not limited to: laughing, smiling and helping others.[48] However, despite the presence of the aforementioned quantitative methods, it is mainly qualitative ones that are used by psychologists in the construction of the report.[47]

In the WHR and generally in psychology, the most common method used to process evidence of happiness are surveys where individuals are asked several questions assessing circumstances that may relate to their level of happiness, or are straightforwardly asked to rate their happiness on a scale from 0 to 10.[44]

This surveying method is often criticised for being too subjective, as the perception of happiness varies from one individual to another and is disproportionately influenced by the most recent events in their lives.[49][50]

Medicine and Health Sciences edit

Health (in particular physical health) and life expectancy play an important part in the assessment of a person’s happiness;[51] these are medical concepts which allow the determination of a person’s quality of life and overall corporal well-being.

Physical health plays an essential role in an individual’s happiness due to biological factors (e.g. hormones released) that have been quantifiably proven to correlate with improved emotions and mental health.[51] Life expectancy is linked to physical health, for when one has poor physical health, life expectancy is shortened. Therefore, the WHR considers life expectancy and physical health as evidence of the level of one’s happiness.

Evidence on life expectancy is taken from the World Health Organisation, which defines life expectancy as the ‘average number of years that a new-born could expect to live’.[52] If one has a longer life expectancy, the likelihood for the person to be happy increases. Evidence in life expectancy incorporates both quantitative and qualitative elements such as documentation of birth mortality in hospitals and oral accounts provided through census.[53] Similarly, evidence in physical health combines both qualitative and quantitative methods.[54][55] The clinician's experience, patient's preferences and existing medical knowledge are all considered in evidence-based medicine, which facilitates the assessment of one's physical health.[56]

Another important factor that is reflected through physical health and life expectancy is the country's healthcare system. For example, a poor healthcare system affects one's corporal well-being, limiting their experience of true happiness.

Economics edit

Traditionally, financial hardship is one of the main factors hindering individual happiness.[57] As such, the WHR uses different econometric measures as a means of evaluating the relative causes of nations’ measured happiness and the differences between nations. The WHR recognises that income security in the event of involuntary unemployment is pivotal in determining life satisfaction.[58][59] The most commonly used metric is GDP per capita — a measure of a country's economic output per person. The data shows that many of the countries with significantly lower GDP per capita tend to feature lower on the Happiness Rankings[45], indicating that analysing the evidence in personal economics and individuals’ incomes is critical to evaluating subjective well-being.

However, most studies do show that once basic human needs are met, additional income does not have a strong correlation with increased well-being.[60][61][62] In fact, one of the main criticisms of using econometrics in quantifying happiness is that too much value is placed on personal income and GDP per capita. Most recent studies show that income inequality and financial security have a much stronger correlation with subjective well-being.[63] Beyond this, most evidence suggests that it is not how much money we have, but rather how we choose to spend it, which impacts our happiness and well-being.[64]

Interdisciplinary Interactions edit

The WHR relies on data from the Gallup World Poll, which is composed of over 100 core questions that cover the different aspects affecting one’s happiness. To garner holistic evidence, experts from different disciplinary fields including (but not limited to) Psychology, Medicine and Economics, work collaboratively. The questionnaire is divided into several sections, including those that directly correspond to the aforementioned disciplines. Examples of the different questions would be:[65][66]

  • Psychology: "All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?"
  • Medicine: "Are you satisfied with or dissatisfied with the availability of quality healthcare?"
  • Economics: "How would you rate economic conditions in this country today — as excellent, good, only, fair or poor?"

In fact, some of the questions apply an interdisciplinary angle, for example, the question "Do you have confidence in the healthcare or medical systems?",[66] concerns the psychological state of the interviewee, whilst their answer will also imply the effectiveness of healthcare systems, which is also evidence of medical infrastructures. This method ensures that the happiness indices generated for each country reflect the average national happiness of its population.

Tensions edit

One of the main criticisms directed towards the WHR is that with the attempt of assessing happiness by combining various disciplines using vastly differing and overall complex approaches to evidencing, the report fails to properly unify the resulting data.

For example, if we take the psychological method of happiness assessment, which is a survey involving subjective answers that are influenced by differing factors, and attempt to combine it with the objective GDP value used in economics, the resulting data accuracy may inevitably falter. Moreover, happiness is often seen as an individual concept — an experience that varies from person-to-person. Therefore, merging together qualitative and quantitative data into a single numerical result may fail to truly reflect the state of happiness in a country.[67]

These various elements in interdisciplinary evidence must thus be accounted for when determining an individual's real happiness level.

References edit

Evidence in the Development and Diagnosis of Anxiety Disorders edit

Introduction edit

Anxiety is a common feeling of everyday life and can affect anyone who is under stress, whether it be before the deadline of an assignment or when practicing for the final of a sports tournament. It is positive and essential, providing that extra boost of adrenaline and motivation enabling success[68]. But simple anxiety can become harmful to someone’s mental health when diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “a mental illness in which a person is so anxious that their normal life is affected”[69]. Historically, the diagnosis of GAD as a specific illness was very blurry because of the similarities it shares with other conditions such as phobias, OCD (Obsessive-compulsive Disorder) or PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), often being considered a symptom of these disorders rather than a disease itself[70]. The fact that mental health issues remained taboo[71] in many cultures until very recently also did not help for developing our knowledge and financing research on these disorders. Furthermore, the more scientific disciplines, such as neurobiology, tend to disagree with anthropology, the first focusing on genetics and biochemical abnormalities while the second puts an emphasis on the cultural environment. This contrast creates issues of evidence between disciplines in the understanding of GAD in its development and diagnosis.

Anthropological Approach edit

The anthropological approach to anxiety focuses on the impact culture has on the causes and symptoms of the disorder. As argued by American anthropologist Franz Boas, historical and environmental backgrounds are essential for interpreting the psychological state of people in different cultures. Therefore, anthropology emphasizes cross-cultural differences in the expressions of anxiety and their underlying factors.[72]

Finding Cross-Cultural Differences edit

Statistical data is used intensively in identifying the cross-cultural differences in the prevalence and major symptoms of these conditions among different ethnic groups. In a national survey on mental health in the United States, Asian Americans were reported to have the lowest rate of anxiety disorders (Table 1).[73] Furthermore, expressions and symptoms of anxiety also vary and can be culturally-specific. Taijin kyofusho (TKS) is a social anxiety disorder more commonly found in Japan and Korea than in other regions and is characterized by the intensified concern of embarrassing others on social occasions.[74]

Table 1. Percentages of Diagnosed Anxiety Disorders Across Ethnical Groups in America[73]
Social Anxiety Disorder (%) Generalised Anxiety Disorder (%) Panic Disorder (%) Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (%)
White Americans 12.6 8.6 5.1 6.5
African Americans 8.6 4.9 3.8 8.6
Hispanic Americans 8.2 5.8 4.1 5.6
Asian Americans 5.3 2.4 2.1 1.6

Contextualising Differences edit

Contextualization of the differences is usually done by case studies including interviews with patients. Anthropologists take secondary evidence from patients’ self-reflections on their symptoms and past experiences to examine the relations between cultural beliefs and disorders. For instance, the potential link between the traditional belief of harmony and the prevalence of dizziness as a panic attack symptom is suggested by interviews with Chinese patients suffering from panic disorders.[75] Other factors like social norms also contribute to the differences. People from collectivistic countries are reported to feel more embarrassment when rating certain behaviors in an experiment compared to people from individualistic countries, which may result in a high level of social anxiety in certain Asian countries.[76]

Neurobiological Evidence for Anxiety Disorders edit

Neurobiology explores the anatomy of the nervous system and how this links to behaviour, an essential component of physiology and neuroscience.[77]

GAD and other related disorders can be observed and explained biologically through research with animal models and newly developed techniques such as neuroimaging with humans. It has been determined that genetic predispositions to GAD and other mental disorders exist in certain individuals and that environmental factors also have an influence, possibly increasing risk factors for developing such disorders.[78]

A growing amount of research in biology and psychiatry is currently being conducted in order to identify pathogenetic biomarkers, essentially underlying biological and genetic factors, that are linked to GAD. Neuroimaging techniques, including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), have been particularly helpful in determining structural and biochemical abnormalities in individuals with GAD. Findings include an increased amount of grey matter in the amygdala, a part of the limbic system involved in the processing of fear, while the hippocampus is typically abnormally low in volume. Such structural differences, among others, are believed to be linked to issues in regulating emotion and certain symptoms of GAD. In addition, different studies have demonstrated the heritability of GAD, one of them getting a result of 49%. While intensive research is being led in order to determine the exact genes responsible for this predisposition, we remain largely in the dark on the topic.[79]

Psychiatry and Evidence in the Diagnosis of Anxiety Disorders edit

One of the main issues in treating anxiety is successfully diagnosing it. Even if this disorder is very common among children and adults it remains one of the most misdiagnosed among the medical community.[80] Although psychiatry is increasingly making use of neurobiology, particularly in the treatment of GAD through medication[81], the diagnosis of mental health disorders continues to widely rely on behavioural observations and qualitative evidence. Indeed, diagnoses are made using a range of qualitative tools such as clinical interviews, questionnaires and self-reporting, which may be deemed subjective and unreliable. Psychiatrists are then faced with the difficulty of associating behavioural and emotional symptoms with a specific disorder, using guidelines and diagnostic manuals such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This is particularly hard in the case of different anxiety disorders and depression which often have very similar manifestations.[82] What may be observed is quite a significant lack of the use of neurobiology in the actual diagnosis of disorders such as GAD. Indeed, although neuroimaging could potentially solve some issues of subjectivity, such techniques are not currently advanced enough to be able to definitively tell different mental health conditions apart.[83]

Conflicts of evidence between disciplines edit

Anxiety sits on a very fine line between a feeling of discomfort and a medical condition. While trying to make the distinction clearer, disciplines have each focused on different aspects of the disorder. Anthropology studies the impact of culture on individuals and the patient’s perception, while neurobiology finds evidence for anxiety in hereditary genes causing abnormalities in the brain. Indeed, while both disciplines explore aspects of GAD through research, sometimes with some overlap, a lack of collaborative engagement exists between them. This may explain some of the failures in psychiatric studies and diagnoses of GAD, and a more thorough interdisciplinary approach could be a solution. The emerging field of cultural neuroscience, taking both socio-cultural environments and biological factors into account, may thus be of use to psychiatry in the future.[84] Another issue that needs to be tackled is the complete absence of neurobiology in the diagnosis of GAD. More investments in neuroimaging would increase the precision and utility of this technology and would ultimately allow neurobiology to have a more important role in the diagnosis of this condition.[85] Furthermore, psychiatry primarily focuses on the treatment and diagnosis of the patient, although in many cases anxiety results from socio-cultural issues that cannot be solved only through therapy or medication. A more active engagement with anthropology and social sciences (economics or politics) could thus also be beneficial.

Reference List edit

Evidence in The Plastic Continent edit

Introduction edit

The Plastic continent also known as the eighth continent lies between California and Hawaii and is three times the size of France. It is made of 1,8 billions pieces of floating plastic greatly impacting the marine life. This is one of the biggest issues in environmental science and climate change. Evidence about this continent is brought by different fields as it is an interdisciplinary issue. We will see how scientific and sociological methods can conflict with each other on this issue.

Evidence in Societal Impact edit

Measurement edit

Due to its waterborne nature, measuring the plastic continent and determining its location has proved a difficult task. A variety of approaches have been used to estimate these properties, producing a wide range of results. Estimates of the area it covers range from the size of Texas to the size of Russia. [86]

The existence of the patch was first theorised by a study researching the distribution of plastic in a patch in the Japan sea which extrapolated that a similar patch must exist in the pacific with a much higher density of plastic. This was based on analysis of wind and ocean current patterns. [87]

There are studies which have surveyed plastic distribution on beaches because this is much easier than surveying the sea, although many factors such as current and beach structure affect this as well as plastic from beach users, so it is an unreliable method for inference about oceanic plastic distribution. [88]

Trawling surveys at sea are more direct but due to the size of the ocean it is difficult to gather enough data for a reliable result. [89]

Image surveys conducted using aircraft were able to assess much larger areas giving more reliable information but could only account for plastic larger than 50cm so were no use in analysing microplastics.[90] Scientist have also monitored the wildlife near the patch. One study onː The plastic content in the diet of albatrosses from Pacific islands showed that there were two distinct zones of debris.[91]

Evidence in Chemistry edit

Plastic is all over in our everyday life. Unfortunately, it is almost indestructible (a single plastic bag can take up to 1000 years to degrade) and really hard to recycle.

Toxic chemicals are released in the ocean from the decomposition of the plastic as hydrophobic organic pollutants. « Microplastics behave like little chemical sponges and all of these very toxic, persistent substances that are in the water will stick to the outside of the plastic in order to move from the aqueous environment to a more hydrophobic environment » according to Sherri Mason, environmental chemist. Those microplastics help to move those chemical products of the environment to organisms that ingest them. Those chemicals come from the chemical composition of the plastic produced by industrial companies. They contain chemical additives such as plasticisers, colorants or UV stabilisers. Evidence of this chemical pollution due to microplastics can be seen in the organisms of marine animals and birds that eat them thinking it is their natural food. Once they are ingested those microplastics can desorb and then are stored in the fat of those animals. Chemicals can affect the ability of marine organisms to store energy and therefore animals have a lower life expectancy.

Evidence in Biology edit

The food chain is disturbed by microplastics in the ocean. Turtles are found entangled in plastic bags or birds’ stomachs are found to be full of plastics. Dissections by biologists of hundreds of those species found dead near beaches or in the droppings of animals pointed out this excessive amount of microplastics. According to Greenpeace, around 1,5 million animals are victims of this plastic pollution in the oceans each year. Those ingestions of plastic have consequences on the health of those marine species such as inflammatory cellular responses or other diseases as necrosis, birth defects, cancers, effects on immune system due to alteration of gene expression... Those effects have been shown mostly through research conducted on dolphins.

Evidence of this plastic continent is also seen in the studies and researches into sediments. Depending on the weight of microplastics some sink and lead to a great amount of plastic on the sea floor. The investigation of plastic in the deep sea is difficult due to limited access. However, some have detected in samples microplastics from depths up to five kilometres with a new extraction technique using high density salt solutions to float the plastic and separate them from other solids.

Evidence in Economics edit

Plastic has been mass produced and is difficult to destroy so plastic waste is a big issue which economists have created models to explain.[92]

Considering that international legislations forbid direct littering at sea, it is difficult for Economists to measure Plastic waste into the Ocean. However, light products usually make their way into the sea passing through rivers or helped by the wind. Therefore, to calculate Plastic in the Ocean, Economists decide to calculate inadequately managed waste in order to measure the amount of plastic but also the countries that pollute the most. They created an equation: ‘Inadequately managed plastic wastes = Plastic waste per capita x Inadequately managed waste % x population’ and it delivers results proving that in a Capitalist Economy like ours with growing GDP per capita, Plastic waste especially in the ocean is a growing problem. Moreover, these calculations are based on ‘very conservative estimates’, and the actual amount of Plastic waste is far greater than the one they used for the calculations. [93]

Evidence in Responsibility edit

Political Evidence edit

In addition to assessing the waste management of different countries,[94][95] studies have used qualitative methods to determine debris' origin. One study reported a rapid increase in Asian bottles. [96] Computer models of ocean currents have been used to predict the course plastic debris would follow and then from this determine its origin. [97] All studies around this matter are liable to political bias.

The actual Laws edit

The territorial waters and the subsoil and airspace above and under it are up to 12 nautical miles away from the cost, the country which borders them has the right over these waters. The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is a maximum width of 200 miles beyond the baselines. In the EEZ, the coastal State has a sovereign right for the purposes of exploration and exploitation, conservation and management of natural resources, the seabed and their sub-surface. The State can for e.g. regulate fishing activities. Beyond the EEZ, in the high seas, the States no longer have rights. In these Seas, the concept of freedom governs. The only right that States have is the right of hot pursuit in High Seas if it began in the EEZ of the coastal State. [98]

Because the Plastic Continent is in the high Seas, no country could be sued for not taking care of it

Conclusion edit

The long-term impacts of oceanic plastic are unknown so extrapolation is necessary to assess its danger. It is waterborne so researching it causes technical challenges. Its dynamic nature means it is difficult to quantify and trace. There are many different methods of gathering evidence on it and the conflicting results they produce make it clear that an interdisciplinary approach is necessary to reach a consensus.

References edit

Evidence in Transgenderism edit

Introduction edit

Transgenderism is the phenomenon whereby a person's gender identity does not correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth.[99] Although this concept exists cross-culturally and throughout history, it is difficult to distinguish between the various terms used (e.g. transsexual, third gender) and their boundaries. Fluctuating definitions of the phenomenon are derived from different disciplines, in which evidence also takes various, conflicting forms. Psychology, biology and social anthropology tackle transgenderism from different perspectives, using various methodologies, research tools and frameworks. To formulate a comprehensive understanding of transgenderism and expand societal consciousness on the issue, it is important to identify the tensions and values behind evidence in each discipline.

Evidence in Biology edit

Biological studies on the causes of transgenderism involve different fields of the discipline: genetics, brain activity and biological factors; while employing different methodologies. In genetic research, biologists use heritability studies in families to see if inherited genes from previous generations could influence gender identity. Similarly, twin study designs are used as evidence. By comparing the concordance rate in DNA among monozygotic and dizygotic twins, they obtain data to estimate the genetic contribution of gender identity. Though this method is one of the most widely used, it yields some limitations as the instruments used to measure gender identity may be confused with gender expression.[100]

Biologists also conduct molecular genetic studies to examine the consequences of prenatal hormone exposure, focusing on sex-hormones receptors that could be responsible for undermasculanisation-feminism. Studies typically investigate small sample sizes or individual genes, and conduct a statistical analysis to see which ones are overrepresented to draw conclusions. However, further work and replications in this area is needed before considering it as strong evidence.[101]

Finally, biologists look for quantitative evidence in parts of the brain that account for sexual dimorphism. Typically, researchers compare brain structure and activity between cisgender and transgender people using various medical imaging techniques such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET).[102] This examines if brain regions in transgender people resemble the genders they identify with, rather than the one they were assigned to. Studies show that it is indeed generally the case.[103]

Evidence in Psychology edit

Psychological research into the cause of transgenderism tends to focus heavily on the experience of the individual, providing significant quantitative evidence by either quantifying qualitative evidence or using methodologies that rely on interviews and questionnaires, as well as observation.[104]

Early methods of obtaining evidence were overwhelmingly case-study based, with the first research in 1949 from Cauldwell based entirely on one individual. This was useful in giving a snapshot of period typical attitudes to transgenderism as a mental immaturity brought on by a disruptive upbringing and genetic predisposition, whilst demonstrating an accurate qualitative account of personal experience.[105] However, this methodology is not conducive to generating quantifiable evidence applicable to other individuals, hence the recent shift towards alternate methodologies.

Recent methods of obtaining evidence include experiments exploring the sociocultural backgrounds of transgender individuals and gender identity development during childhood.[106] These methods are more conducive to establishing universal laws within the discipline as they generate large sets of quantitative data for evidence that can be studied to identify causal relationships.[107] It has been found that children display knowledge of typical gender stereotypes long before they show a differentiation between sex based on genital information, highlighting psychology’s emphasis on the importance of ‘nurture’ over ‘nature’ and more biologically based theories. However these types of methodologies, despite rising ethical standards in recent years, tend to lack consideration for transgender individuals within the structure of the methodology, eg. continuing to use binary terms such as male and female within questionnaires.[108] Therefore, there are still improvements to be made to the methodologies used in psychological research to collect evidence.

Evidence in Social Anthropology edit

The main evidence used by anthropologists is ethnographic evidence collected by methods like fieldwork, participant observation or interviews, which are predominantly qualitative. The data is then analysed using the framework of anthropological theories or positionalities, such as structuralism, feminist or queer theory.

Social anthropology’s evidence of transgenderism consists of analysing the lived experiences of transgender people through ethnography, and exploring the context-dependent existence of transgenderism and its expressions. It explains transgenderism as part of identity and often with a level of agency and performativity[109] that other disciplines neglect because social anthropology uses evidence by relational methodologies. For example, the Travesti in Brazil are biologically male but acquire female body characteristics. However, although ethnographic research shows that they are viewed as women psychologically (similar to the view in scientific disciplines), the Travesti may not see themselves as transgender.[110] The qualitative approach of social anthropology is important because the definition of transgenderism varies cross-culturally and temporally/[111] The Western male-female binary framework[112] exemplifies this need for contextualisation of evidence as it is not universally applicable or correct, as demonstrated by various global ethnographic studies[113], or carry colonially-impacted ideas. Furthermore, queer theory suggests that gender is distinct from sex and can be socially constructed. Thus, notions of gender may vary cross-culturally, so queer theory can be used as a framework in social anthropology to explore the relation between gender, biological sex[114] and transgenderism.

Social anthropology situates lived transgender experiences within their societal context (e.g. class, race)[115], taking into account the impact of intersecting factors[116] on transgenderism, gender binaries, or labels used in various societies, such as colonialism in the history of a society having an impact on cultural perception on gender or transgender issues. Reflexivity in social anthropology takes into account the positionality[117] of the ethnographer and puts into question possible biases within their methodology, ethnographic evidence and analysis.

Integration of Evidence and Conclusion edit

By integrating evidence from the three disciplines, a more holistic understanding of transgenderism can be gained. In Biology, limitations of the twin study design (i.e. distinction between measurement of gender identity and expression) may be improved upon by using more subjective evidence from other disciplines. Psychology may use social experiments with participants in various age groups to distinguish between gender expression and identity, as childhood may be a key time in establishing stereotypes. Social anthropology may obtain evidence from individuals using interviews/testimony instead of quantitative evidence. Combining these through an interdisciplinary approach will give the most efficient use of evidence.

However, interdisciplinary tensions could stem from differences in methodologies used by social anthropology and scientific disciplines. Due to reliance on qualitative evidence such as interviews or observations by ethnographers in social anthropology, clashes in evidence may happen as quantitative evidence tends to hold more authority, potentially leading to a power imbalance across the disciplines or favouring evidence from natural sciences. However, by quantifying experiences, the subjectivity of transgender experiences cannot be captured. By reducing transgenderism to biological or psychological factors, there is loss of societal context and the variety of lived transgender experiences across cultures.

Causes of transgenderism are complex and it is unlikely that an exact set of explanations can be found within one discipline. In order to apply evidence to real life, it is important to be aware of why certain types of evidence are used, and what they measure and fail to capture. Awareness of these disciplinary tensions allows for a comprehensive, interdisciplinary application of evidence to be used in understanding transgenderism.

References edit

Evidence in Intelligence Testing edit

Introduction edit

The means by which intelligence is defined and tested has significant implications for individuals livelihoods in modern society so the subject has been the source of controversy[118][119][120].

Intelligence is an abstract concept formulated from variable aspects, and different disciplines have conflicting views on what counts as evidence in measuring intelligence. Some even argue that intelligence testing should cease. However, it can be a valuable theoretical and practical tool in studying mental development and assessing cognitive abilities[121]. Resolving interdisciplinary conflicts through integration could develop more holistic approaches to intelligence testing which can be used to benefit individuals and society[122][123]. Tests need to be universal across machines, animals, humans, and therefore disciplines, and results standardised against humans.[124] Reaching a common understanding of evidence of intelligence means we'll have certainty of when a machine has achieved intelligence.

This Wikibook will look at evidence in intelligence testing in psychology, computer science and an anthropological/sociological perspective with the goal of highlighting conflicts.

Evidence in Intelligence Testing in Psychology edit

Normal IQ distribution with mean 100 and standard deviation 15

In Psychometrics, the most common measure of intelligence is Intelligence Quotient (IQ). There are multiple modern IQ tests, the most common in the English-speaking world being the Wechsler Intelligence Scale, with different versions for adults and children. David Wechsler believed intelligence to be made up of interconnecting elements of cognitive ability that could be isolated and measured.[125] The current version of the test, WAIS-IV, is composed of indexes: verbal comprehension, perceptual reasoning, working memory, and processing speed.[126]

The IQ score is calculated based on standard deviation comparing individual performance against the average. These scores are normally distributed where average score is the most common (mean of 100 and standard deviation of 15 IQ points).[127] IQ scores are therefore estimates of intelligence rather than being a direct measure. IQ tests have been shown to have high statistical reliability with a confidence interval of approximately 10 points and a standard error of 3 points.[128] Although performance in IQ tests can vary on an individual basis due to external factors such as motivation and anxiety, casting doubt on validity, IQ scores correlate with performance in jobs and schools.[129][130] Some psychologists regard this as sufficient evidence that IQ tests are viable for practical use in education and jobs.[131]

Other psychologists have been critical of IQ tests with Wayne Weiten stating "IQ tests are valid measures of the kind of intelligence necessary to do well in academic work. But if the purpose is to assess intelligence in a broader sense, the validity of IQ tests is questionable." IQ tests can measure forms of intelligence, but broader aspects including creativity and emotional intelligence are unaccounted.[132] There are alternative tests for measuring aptitude in response to the criticisms. An example is the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test.[133]

An Anthropological and Sociological Perspective edit

Anthropological and sociological understandings focus on an individuals interactions with their wider culture and society. Since intelligence is a contested concept for which definitions vary both across and within cultures[134][135], those within anthropology argue that tests measuring intelligence must be emic – i.e., derived from within – the culture of the individual being tested[136]. Due to qualitative differences between cultures, some argue that quantitative comparisons made across cultures will be unhelpful [137]. Taking an anthropological perspective, Sternberg and Kaufman have argued that cultures "designate as “intelligent” the cognitive, social and behavioural attributes that they value as adaptive to the requirements of living in those cultures"[138]. Similarly, some sociologists argue that intelligence is a social construct, and its evidence is the product of a particular sociohistorical context concerned with issues surrounding social stratification and inequality[139].

In relation to measuring intelligence, those taking anthropological and sociological perspectives have highlighted the modifiability of intelligence[140], along with other external factors influencing performance in particular testing methods. Berry and Irvine have emphasised the need to appreciate the different levels of context that influence the performance of intelligence, including ecological and experimental contexts[141]. Their work has shown how cognitive styles develop in accordance with environmental demands[142]. The requirement is then for the experimental context (context in which intelligence is being tested) to align with the individuals own learning and everyday context. One example comes from Brazilian street children, who, despite being reliant upon their mathematics skills to run their own business to survive, performed poorly on solving the same mathematical problems when tested in school due to the abstract nature of the problems presented which were removed from their real-world context[143]. Conventional IQ and psychometric based tests, are thus considered problematic for their basis in assumptions of the acontextuality of intelligence and cognitive performance, especially when used to compare individuals from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds.

Evidence in Intelligence Testing in Computer Science edit

Language as Evidence

The imitation game follows from Descartes’ ideas of language versatility in new and challenging situations being the first test of intelligence.[144] An interrogator, separated from a machine and human, asks questions. Through answering, the machine tries to trick the interrogator that it's the human, and the human tries to help the interrogator guess. If the machine is successful, it provides evidence that it's intelligent according to Turing.[145] The machine must mimic a human, pretending it's unable to perform complex equations and faking natural-looking human spelling mistakes. Evidence for intelligence here is adaptability, not the g-factor view of handling complexity.

The HAL project measures conversational ability as evidence of intelligence and an estimate of human maturity is assigned to the machine. The machine’s speech is examined for evidence looking at vocabulary size, response types and mean length of utterance.[146]


Goal-focused systems (both animal and mechanical) where communication, or conversation, between system and environment is a prerequisite for activity.[147] The system’s response/activity as it interacts with the changing environment is taken as evidence of intelligence.[148] Evidence of intelligence is focused on activity and purposeful behaviour rather than reason.

Universal Intelligence Test

A machine receives rewards for interacting with an environment, it must learn the environment structure and what actions receive rewards to maximise amount received. Extra reward is given for applying Occam’s razor which is a intuitive, yet intelligent, method.[149]


It's rarely considered evidence of intelligence when a machine completes a classical IQ test, possible from 1963 when an AI program passed geometric analogy tasks from WAIS.

Often results are comparable to humans but, like in the case of number completion, the way machines solve problems can be different meaning results have different error distributions.

Related is psychometric AI, the field of building machines that can solve a range (using a single test is useless to evaluate a machine since it can be specialised to solve it) of established tests.[150]

Conclusion edit

There is still much debate over what is considered evidence in intelligence testing. In machines, testing is focused on evidence for real-time flexibility, adaptability, and creativity; especially in terms of language and conversation. Like anthropological and sociological approaches, computer science tends to focus on interactions with the external environment. This goes against the universal, static, approach of IQ tests which, in its emphasis on evidence for intrinsic characteristics of intelligence measured in isolation, tends to ignore context. Engagement between these disciplines, alongside unexplored disciplines, could help move away from this narrow understanding of intelligence and towards a more practical understanding.

References edit

Evidence in Hormonal Contraception edit

Introduction edit

Hormonal contraception exists in several forms, including oral pills, vaginal rings or skin patches, all sharing the same mechanism: they influence female hormone levels to prevent ovulation,[151] with a wide application in birth control and treating menstrual symptoms.[152]

Due to such broad usage, research considers evidence from multiple disciplines, including biology and psychology, when regarding the development of new or currently available contraception. This range of studies produces a variety of evidence which in itself presents interdisciplinary tensions. Therefore, an insight into such tensions between biology and psychology will better the understanding of hormonal contraception by policy makers and the general public, improving their everyday use and effectiveness.

Evidence in biology edit

Most of the biological evidence relating to hormonal contraceptives is produced through randomised control trials (RCTs),[153] or large, non-comparative multi-centre registration studies.[154] A problem in the field is that both these designs, although less so in RCTs, run the risk of producing biased evidence as the companies that manufacture the study contraceptive fund and undertake these studies themselves.[154] Furthermore, the sampling frames consist of mostly Europeans or Americans,[155][156] with research lasting only 365 days evaluating up to 8 menstrual cycles. Hence, long-term health effects of hormonal contraceptives are undocumented.[153]

Within the discipline, evidence for hormonal contraception is varied. This is due to the fact that synthetic hormones affect bodily hormone production, leading to several physiological changes.[157] This forces biological research to use several specialised methodologies to measure each effect.

One problematic assumption in the biological study of hormonal contraceptives is the application of self-reports to generate quantitative measurements. This links to the issue of inconsistently defined terminology such as “continuation,” “compliance”, “adherence,” “misuse”, “nonuse,” and “correct use”.[156] The reliance of self-report studies on these unstandardised definitions produces conflicting evidence and limits the observation of negative outcomes.[156]

Most importantly, biologists fail to capture the full complexity of contraceptives due to the general lack of research towards non-physiological effects of hormonal treatments, or menstruation-associated symptoms, participant satisfaction, and long-term health effects due to continuous contraceptive use.[153][158] There is a preference within biology to consider only physical conditions in evidence. Many epidemiological case studies suggest increased risks of venous thromboembolism, ischemic stroke, and myocardial infarction,[157] all of which are easily tested and objectively quantifiable conditions.

Evidence in psychology edit

“Literature testing psychological implications of commencing oral contraceptives has lagged behind research investigating physical risks.” [159] - Kobey and Bunnk, 2012.

Despite this, the field pushes for a greater understanding of long-term consequences in hormonal contraception use. There is a heavier use of meta-analyses as the field takes advantage of previous psychological research.[160] Alongside these meta-analyses the psychological evidence also focuses on the use of in-person interviews and population based studies; these aid in giving a longer-term perspective with a more qualitative approach.[161]

The research conducted to review effects of hormonal contraception, formed over a larger time scale than biological research, not only analyses the impact at both a neurological or hormonal level,[162] but also a behavioural level. This helps to diagnose sources of certain mental illnesses and the hormones used in contraception which serve to aggravate them.[163]

Research methods also include subjective discussions on second wave feminism and the impact of contraception on the workforce due to a relation to women’s health and psychology.[164] There exists further qualitative observation of the impact of hormones on primates,[163] and qualitative studies relating to behavioural patterns in women.[165] These studies carried out on primates and then women show an impact not only upon the physical health of the individual, though it is noted that these specifications fall more in line with biological research, but also upon levels of aggression and depression. However, primates may be considered sufficiently distant to humans that they yield uncertain evidence regarding possible human consequences.

Tensions edit

Differences in evidence type present one avenue in which tensions arise. Many biological studies are clinical, randomised-control trials, such as Osuga, Hayashi and Kanda’s 2020 study.[166] Effects of hormonal contraception on a large sampling frame are numerically ‘scored’, with results statistically analysed; this produces primary evidence which is largely quantitative and removes any subjective aspect of personal experience. In psychology however, there is a focus on using reports and interviews to generate evidence; the emphasis is on personal experiences with contraception and impacts on mental health and sexual activity.[163] Evidence such as this is gathered from more subjective, situational studies as opposed to the objective and statistical biological experiments.

Another tension arises within the differing uses of self-report based evidence. In biology, this evidence is treated as quantitative and generally not deeply evaluated; in many experiments abnormal personal experiences are excluded from calculations.[153] This same self-reported data in psychological research is treated as qualitative evidence and is analysed to draw new conclusions, suggesting reasons for the abnormalities. The issue of unclear terminology regarding participant conditions in biological research further demonstrates this lack of focus on individual participant action. Alternatively, in psychology, this terminology is standardised as individual experiences are usually the focus of the research.

Furthermore, biological studies considering the safety of contraception may focus more on physical side-effects, such as abnormal bleeding.[167] The mental side-effects considered in psychological studies may take longer to manifest themselves. As such, the evidence gathered in biology considers seemingly more physical or ‘tangible’ side-effects. This could mean that biological evidence is deemed more valid than its psychological counterpart; here another tension becomes apparent as there is a notion of necessity in biological research but not psychological.

Conclusion edit

In the development of hormonal contraceptives, there is greater focus on biological research when first considering drug viability, with psychological studies carried out following this. While hormonal contraception has been in use for over 50 years, suggesting high levels of biological research, the psychological effect of contraception on stress responses and emotional memory remains unexplored; it is only in recent years that this is being considered.[168] This can be attributed to the fact that production of evidence in psychology is somewhat limited to studying patented products already in use, while biology is not.[169] In order to overcome such limitations, an interdisciplinary study of contraception will be beneficial.

Regarding the study of long-term effects, longer research periods mean that psychological studies ‘lag’ significantly behind biological ones. Policy makers therefore may consider biological evidence a priority, and psychological evidence an afterthought. In light of this, when considering the viability of a contraceptive drug, there are ethical concerns testing for psychological effects in a substance not yet clinically trialled. However, the amount of time required for the long-term psychological study of contraceptives may mean that drug companies prefer to develop drugs after only clinical tests; this is concerning considering mental health is equally as important as physical. With this rising consideration regarding mental health, policy makers may take an interest in an interdisciplinary approach to hormonal contraception development.

Lastly, after considering current tensions, there is also some progress toward an interdisciplinary approach. Currently there is little use of the psychological perspective within biology, however in psychological meta-analyses there are references to biological evidence. This shows a promising interdisciplinary future within the study of hormonal contraception.

References edit

Evidence in Effectiveness of Lockdown edit

Evidence in Effectiveness of Lockdown edit

Introduction edit

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a debate concerning the optimal response started. This chapter investigates the evidence disciplines of Economics, Political Science and Public Health rely upon to determine the effectiveness of the implementation of lockdowns and the role disciplinary methodological differences play in it. Lockdown is defined here as 'a series of restrictions on the social and economic life of citizens and use of public spaces'.[170]

As this debate is influencing states' decisions to pursue particular virus-containment strategies, [171] it is important to highlight the potential flaws in the arguments of each discipline and to demonstrate that an interdisciplinary approach is essential for determining the most effective measures.[172]

Disciplinary Approaches edit

Economics edit

In Economics, virus-suppression measures like lockdowns are viewed as a trade-off between economic costs and lives lost. Many researchers attempt to represent the problem as a cost-benefit analysis by constructing quantitative models that either justify the costs of lockdown or find it inefficient. [173]

Economic evaluation is based on abstract, generalised models that rely on quantitative data, estimates, theories, forecasts and other models, for example, epidemiological models which also have some degree of abstraction and error.[174][171][175] Both economic and epidemiological models have to be based on limited data obtained by observation rather than controlled randomized trials and thus may be insufficiently reliable. [171]

As a result, some economists propose mitigation strategies that are less economically severe instead of a full lockdown. [175] But others recognise the validity of strict short-term suppressive restrictions, admitting that if they help to contain the virus, it may speed up the economic recovery and lower costs in the long-term. [176][177] However, those who calculate economic costs, inclusive of deaths and harm incurred due to a recession caused by lockdowns, suggest that strict suppression measures may be less effective in less economically developed countries and that the idea of the choice between economic harm and lives lost is flawed due to the direct interconnection of the two. [172]

Therefore, a dominant opinion doesn't exist within the discipline due to a high degree of uncertainty, and the differences in questions, methodologies, and consequently, the evidence that different economists consider.

Public Health edit

Public Health researchers' primary focus, regarding lockdowns, is “disease trends and risk factors, outcomes of treatment or public health interventions... and health care costs and use.”[178]

Specifically for pandemics like Covid-19, the most common method used for assessing combative strategies is an ‘intervention and prevention program evaluation,’ a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies. [179] This method aims to determine the effectiveness of lockdowns by comparing the change in the indicators in the pre-lockdown months and post-lockdown months.[180]

Majority of the evidence in public health research consists of models of the number of cases against different factors such as geographical location, age-groups etc. Multiple national and cross-national studies have observed an overall downward trend in the number of cases after physical distancing measures (such as lockdowns) have been implemented, establishing a direct correlation between the two. [181] [182] [183] However, although India imposed a nationwide lockdown that slowed infection rate, the number of cases skyrocketed as soon as the lockdown was lifted. This was due to inadequate existing public health facilities which weren't improved during the lockdown, reversing any positive effects of it. [184]

Public health recommendations continue to evolve during the pandemic. However, overall, based on limited quantitative evidence, the public health ministries of multiple countries assert that lockdowns are the most effective preventative measures, especially when coupled with other mitigative strategies such as test and trace and mandatory quarantines.

Political Science edit

Political Science studies focus on the actions and attitudes of individuals, groups, and institutions on the local, national and international levels. To understand the effectiveness and consequences of lockdowns, it collects empirical evidence through surveys, questionnaires, interviews, and case studies along with field-work, ethnographic works and past experiences.[185]

In regards to the effectiveness of lockdowns, the central issue for political scientists is the impact of lockdowns on political support and behavioural attitudes towards governmental institutions and actors, especially in democratic states, due to increasing government intervention (e.g tracking systems [186]) and the undemocratic nature of lockdown depriving people of the civil liberties.[187] [188]

The findings of multiple cross-national surveys indicate an increase in diffuse political support , regarding lockdown arrangements.[189][190] [191] [192]

However, the qualitative evidence suggests that the undemocratic nature of lockdowns can worsen existing social conflicts as well as lead to a new wave of social unrest in democracies.[193] [194] Studies have illustrated several correlations: between distinct features of states and citizens’ reaction to lockdown, between political beliefs, agitation campaigns and lockdown compliance, [195] and between unemployment and opposition to the state-proposed measures. [196]

All in all, the existing evidence suggests that the short-term effects of the lockdown on political support are mostly positive as the people recognize its need. However, long-term effects are yet undetermined, but seem to be more negative as no fundamental ideological changes are happening [192] while the role of the government changes, and this can cause continuous violent discontent with undemocratic measures, thus putting the safety and well-being of people under threat.

Conflict in Evidence edit

Overall, multiple conflicts among these disciplines along with their most contested conclusions seem to arise from the limitations of the evidence that they rely on. The nature of their methodologies makes some disciplines consider short-term impacts rather than long-term ones and take either qualitative or quantitative factors into account, but not both.

Evidence in Public Health is limited to the short-term impact of lockdowns on health-related variables. It doesn’t account for how they may influence economic variables such as exacerbation of existing economic inequalities and negative growth in GDP, causing a recession.[171] Recessions result in increased unemployment levels and poverty, which can lead to higher long-term death rates, especially in less developed countries.[197]

The evidence in Economics considers these long-term impacts on economies, but it is based on limited quantifiable factors. Economic models tend to lack recognition of psychological influences, of some quantitatively unmeasurable uncertainty, and many aspects of the complex interdependence of society. [171][173] They calculate the effectiveness of lockdown measures based on a change in the GDP and estimated value of life and don't consider the citizens’ opinion on the ‘economic costs vs lives lost’ debate.[198] For example, the initially calculated costs of a lockdown were later reassessed when it was found that only 7% of the negative growth in economic activity was due to legal restrictions while 60% was caused by people’s fear of the severity of the virus and the anticipated crisis, highlighting the importance of consideration of human behavior.[199]

Due to the qualitative nature of the evidence it relies on, Political Science considers the effectiveness of suppressive measures in relation with human behavior. For example, due to its attention to the political climate and levels of trust in the country at the time of entering the lockdown, it addresses the likelihood of social conflicts and lack of compliance with the proposed measures and thus, chances of failure of lockdowns and loss of lives resulting from them if people are not in support of any governmental decisions.[200]

A higher degree of reliance on interdisciplinary perspectives and evidence therefore will lead to fewer dangerous policy experiments and a more effective mitigation of the pandemic and its consequences.[172]

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Evidence in the Euthanasia of Dementia Patients edit

Introduction edit

The euthanasia of dementia patients is becoming increasingly contentious as the syndrome's prevalence rises with the ageing population, and concerns over healthcare costs and wellbeing grow.[1][2][3] Euthanasia, the act of painlessly ending a life to relieve suffering,[4] is, where legal, increasingly requested by dementia patients.[5] Dementia is 'a group of related symptoms associated with a gradual decline in brain functioning'.[6]

Alzheimer's disease and other dementias world map (in deaths per million persons)

Two branches of the debate especially generate interdisciplinary tensions. This chapter explores how tensions between Medicine, Sociology, and Ethics concerning this issue can be explained by the forms of evidence these disciplines examine. The first branch concerns judgements between an individual's life and the wellbeing of their society. The disciplines each bring valuable insights to the debate, yet struggle to reach a consensus on the right approach. The second concerns the rights of patients: examining differing disciplinary understandings of the syndrome, how they affect an individual's autonomy and approaches to valuing lives.

Individual and Collective Benefits edit

The three disciplines have contrasting approaches to the conflict between benefits to individuals and their society. Ethics, the study of morality, forms arguments logically, based on axiomatic or subjective assumptions of the writer, discipline, and opposing positions.[7][8] Anecdotal evidence is also used to highlight specific moral issues. Dresser,[9] for example, criticises one case where a court prioritised 'economic and third party [family] concerns' over those of an 'incompetent' patient in permitting the cessation of life extending treatment. Logically extending from axioms of respect for autonomy and life, they view the decision as immoral, contrasting with sociological and medical positions.[7][9][10]

Sociology studies the behaviour and experience of individuals based on their demographics and groups, and is therefore concerned with the social influences on decision-making and the effects of decisions and policies on groups.[11][12][13] Although many relevant studies are published in medical journals, their sociological approach constructively builds on medical and ethical discussions.

Several studies explore the effects of euthanasia and dementia on the experiences of family members, suggesting that allowing euthanasia decreases levels of grief, trauma and depression in families.[14][15][16] Roest's study[17] found that, despite the legal, ethical and medical narratives suggesting otherwise, patients' families were central in both physician and patient decisions concerning euthanasia.[17] Rather than criticising this, they suggest that the family's role should be further recognised, contradicting Dresser's conclusion.[17][9] Thus, different conclusions result from different forms of evidence: ethical premises and anecdotes vs. qualitative, community-focused data.

Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY) is a common measure used to distribute scarce resources and maximise usefulness of medical treatments.[18][19] It calculates life expectancy, adjusted for any health conditions or disabilities a person lives with.[18] The measurement therefore favours the young and healthy, leading to a reluctance to assign resources to patients that could remain in poor health after treatment.[20][21] Due to its assumption of perfect health as an optimum, focus on maximising 'benefit' to society as a whole, and reliance on empirical rather than qualitative evidence or axiomatic values, the QALY is criticised in sociology and ethics for its discrimination against the ageing and disabled.[18][22][19][23][20][24][25] This criticism is especially relevant to dementia patients, who face stigmas associated with dementia and financial pressures to fulfil their "special duty [to society] to die",[26] decreasing their chances of receiving healthcare resources.[19]

There are further ethical and sociological claims that dementia patients are depersonalised by the increasing medicalisation of old age, where they are perceived as unwell, as opposed to merely old.[19][27]

Personhood edit

The issue of personhood and dementia is highly intersectional, influenced from across the human sciences. Ethics, sociology and medicine have very different approaches to the concept's importance and how it should be preserved.[9][27]

The skeletal formula for Donepezil: one of the most commonly used drugs in the treatment of dementia.

The medical diagnosis of dementia includes cognitive, neuropsychological, and genetic tests.[28] Research-wise, medicine focuses on physiological interventions and symptom-relieving drugs,[29] generating the empirical evidence that medicine's physiological focus is grounded in. Due to this focus, the medical community faces considerable pressure for timely diagnosis, symptom relief, life-extending interventions, and rapid transitions into care programs.[30][31][32]

Sociology explores the issue through a social constructionist framework and qualitative evidence, investigating the cultural, social and demographic factors that impact the prevalence and perception of the syndrome.[33][34][3] This approach leads to a view of dementia that is based on its experience being an intersection of social position, symptoms, and the construction of dementia.[35][36][17][3] Due to this evidence base and understanding of dementia as being socially constructed by medical classifications and media presentation, Johnstone[33] and others argue that unnecessary stigma and fear have been generated around ageing by the medicalisation of dementia, leading to the depersonalisation of patients.[33][27][37] This, and literature, showing how dementia prevalence and experience vary by demographics, has raised concerns that allowing euthanasia could become discriminatory.[33][36][38][34][39]

This 'depersonalisation' is justified in medicine by the elements of competence to consent: communication of a choice, factual understanding, appreciation of consequences, and rationality.[40][41] Thus, dementia patients are often not considered competent in their decisions, especially those who refuse food or treatment, or opt for euthanasia.[31][42]

The concern about the euthanasia of dementia patients is shared by sections of sociological literature and medical practice, but for very different reasons.[43] Tension arises from the sociological view that, in medicines neglect of patient autonomy, pessimism and 'pejorative interpretations of forgetfulness',[27] they perpetuate a view of a 'black hole of ageing'[27] which magnifies the patients desire for death while disrespecting requests or attempts to achieve it.[27][31][33]

The consensus in ethics is generally that the wishes of the patient should be respected, and that advance directives are problematic in this regard.[9][42][44] Dresser[9] criticises the medical practice for neglecting the present patient when decisions are made based on their advance directives or another individuals assessment.[9] Her argument is based on Parfit's 'Complex view' of personal identity, which is a view based on the subjective, qualitative observation that people feel disconnected from their previous selves and their values change over time.[9] The evidential conflict with medicine is clear. As it concerns the physical changes in a body over time, viewing an individual as multiple persons over the course of their life seems incompatible with medical methods.[44]

Conclusion edit

There is little consensus between Medicine, Ethics and Sociology in regards to euthanasia and dementia. Each discipline draws from evidence that prioritises different areas of the issue of living with dementia. Medicine continues to do valuable work for those suffering from dementia, however, medical practice would benefit from sociological and ethical insights. Sociology is concerned with intersectional affects on the experience of dementia, criticising policies and representations that favour one group over another or create unnecessary suffering. It brings insights into how cultural and medical views can be improved to support people with dementia, as well as important social considerations in the euthanasia debate. Ethics, concerned with morality and individual rights, also raises valuable questions. It integrates these with sociological studies of how the treatment and rights of dementia patients could be improved in medical practice, especially concerning their right to die.[31] There is encouraging research bridging this gap in medical sociology and medical ethics, however, significant difficulty exists in changing medical practice due to its highly practical focus.[2][31][45]

References edit

Introduction edit

Time perception refers to the subjective, individual experience or awareness of the passage of time. Time being a concept of major importance to people and their fear of fatality, time perception is a very widely studied issue, in multiple disciplines across both humanities and natural sciences.

As its evidence comprises subparts (primary or secondary, qualitative or quantitative), the study of time perception in any field seems complex. It is an intrinsically individual and subjective phenomenon and analysing different evidence from different perspectives is a complex process.

Time perception in Neuroscience edit

Research and evidence in neuro-scientific time perception edit

A range of research methods have been used to produce evidence relating to how humans perceive time, with a focus on the anatomy and physiology of the brain. These include electrophysiology, psychophysics, EEG (electroencephalogram), MRI, and computer modelling data which are used in conjunction with more qualitative evidence produced by asking subjects questions and recording their responses. The present consensus in the scientific community is that the mechanism of time perception lies in the connections within and between neural networks, as opposed to constrained to a single part of the brain.[46]

Emotions and time perception edit

The mechanism underlying the phrase ‘time flies when you are having fun’ has been scientifically examined and qualitative evidence has been found to support the hypothesis that emotion does affect time perception.[47] A 2011 French study run by Professor Driot-Volet and Sandrine Gil involved showing subjects extracts of films intended to induce fear, sadness, or indifference (neutral clips like weather reports used for the latter). After viewing, subjects estimated the duration of a stimulus, and having seen a fear inducing clip, time seemed to slow down, as fear activates an internal response that increases the rate of the internal body clock. Surprisingly, sad clips were not seen to alter subjects sense of time, as the clips were not personal.

Overcoming the subjectivity of evidence edit

The very nature of studying time perception is that it is subjective and individual, which contributes significant challenges to obtaining valid evidence. To overcome such issues, researchers utilise standardised tasks that allow for a more accurate comparison of the way individuals perceive the effect of emotions and experiences on time.[48] It is important to separate the time perception in a neutral context to the time perception emotional situation. This ensures that it is the emotions of the emotional stimulus that affect the way time is perceived, rather than other factors involved in the emotional event.

Time perception in Philosophy edit

Particular evidence in philosophy edit

Contrary to scientific fields, philosophical evidence and the resulting thinking are not as obvious or quantitative. The main evidence available in our subjective and relative perception of time is individual experience : anything one feels, thoughts, memories or even physical feelings. German philosopher Martin Heidegger stresses that time “persists merely as a consequence of the events taking place in it[49]. Therefore, time is perceived through events that come in succession.[50] Each and every individual experiences these events by means of their senses before perceiving them in time, in the way a flash of lightning is first perceived by vision and later by hearing. Philosophical evidence when it comes to time perception, with its regards to personal experience, is therefore most likely to be empirical, qualitative and primary.

Memory as the major type of evidence in time perception edit

Such introspective evidence can allow a study of the perception of time’s duration. St-Augustine highlights the prevailing role of memory, being the evidence on which we base our understanding of the time we live in. The duration of a moment can only be assessed once it has passed and has been anchored in our memory. The memory of this moment, of what one felt and thought, is what allows us to place it in time. The only time in which we exist is the present, and our memories of events represent the evidence of time passing. Past and future are just existent in our minds, and only allow us to organize our memories of events chronologically. Evidence of time duration and passing, lying in memory, is evidently fully subjective. St-Augustine describes our conception of time as fully spontaneous, thus there is no need to try and explain it[51].

How memory leads to a qualitative and individual perception of time according to philosophy edit

Sharpening St-Augustine’s argument, W. J. Friedman formulated two models. The strength model states that the more recent an event, the stronger its memory is.[52] Based on empirical evidence, he counters it with the inference model, arguing that time is perceived by recalling characteristics of the events which date we are trying to gauge. Indeed, he tested how people would remember a list of words, given successively, considering they were told to remember some of them more than others. Experience shows that the best remembered words were not the last ones but the ones on which attention was drawn. Overall, philosophy provides evidence that individuals will remember events and therefore perceive time according to their personal experiences (interactions, orders received, striking feelings) impacting their memory. Thus time perception is a relative concept and not a universal one.

Conclusion edit

Tensions and common ground between the disciplines edit

The main basis of the existing tensions is the types of evidence used as it incorporates many sub-parts (such as objective and subjective evidence). Indeed, disciplines relying more on solid, quantitative and objective evidence such as neuroscience will have a different understanding from disciplines using more subjective evidence like philosophy does. Neuroscience and philosophy differ on the fact that neuroscience covers immediate time perception and the impact of emotions that are felt simultaneously whereas philosophy highlights the importance of past experiences and how they influence one’s time perception. However, they concord about the fact that time perception lies on a subjective basis and that individual profile – emotions and experience – is key to one’s time perception. Our interdisciplinary approach therefore challenges the generally acknowledged belief that objective evidence is more powerful than subjective.

An interdisciplinary approach: the domain of psychology edit

Tackling the concept of time perception in an interdisciplinary way naturally leads to the field of psychology. Psychology – "the study of the mind and how it dictates and influences our behaviour"[53] – strongly relies on neuroscientific evidence, theory and methods, which are the first tools used by psychologists to assess issues. For example, it was shown that the emotion of anxiety obstructs an accurate perception of time[54]. However, psychology as a profession focuses as well on directly helping individuals to reach mental and behavioural stability. To reach this aim, a unique patient-psychologist relationship has to exist. Philosophical evidence enters here the process : an individual's time perception depends on their memory of personal experience. This means the evidence on which the therapist will work to help the patient will come out of their communication and the patient’s telling about their past : primary subjective evidence which could indicate what might provoke their anxiety. In this way, associating philosophy and neuroscience with their tensions and common ground altogether helps get a holistic approach and cope efficiently with time anxiety.

References edit

Evidence in the French Security Law edit

The French Global security law edit

The 20th of October 2020, Jean-Yves Fauvergue et Alice Thourot introduced a new proposition of law to put in action within the French government. It included new regulations upon the municipal police’s power, the instauration of new equipment and devices of video monitoring for enhanced social security and new policies to restrict rights to disseminate videos of the police.[55]

Sociological approach edit

Sociological insight on a law appears beneficial in the understanding of a policy's effect on society. According to the government, this law only aims to tackle issues of increasing violence against the police due to online diffusion of videos calling out for violence. Even though, this law claims to protect the nation’s police, many activists, journalists as well as the EU and the UN are expressing their dissatisfaction with this law, which is not in line with French values and human rights.[56] Sociologically, videos are primary sources of evidence that can reveal violation of human rights. In a society where social medias reveal themselves as platforms of self-expression, the use of video as an evidence to denounce, critique and question is one of the most used and relevant tool.[57] However, some factors associated with the social media obstruct the evidentiary value of a video: the anonymity, display of misinformation or information with lack of context, all make social media not always very convincing and often subjected to collective denial for lack of credibility.[58]

Conflict Theory Perspective edit

Conflict theorists, center their sociological perspective upon power relationships within broader social structure, in particular inequality and uneven wealth distribution causing consequent class conflict.[59] According to Chevigny and based on evidence he collected in America, a conflict theorist, police brutality is a governmental instrument used for and by social elites to suppress potential social threats that could destabilize their privileges.[60] This perspective emphasize the exploitative aspect of social structure and the global passivity and lack of consciousness due to an established status quo.[61] Using this perspective as an evidence, this new law regulating rights upon video-recording authority, appears as a mean to prevent the population from having access to disturbing videos that could destabilize the order to the detriment of potential victims, as well as allowing police officers to commit unjustified violence with impunity to groups that would represent a threat. This law is meant to cover up undesirable social movements, likely to cause social unrest.

Philosophical Approach edit

With the new security law, civilians don't have the right to take any video footage of the police. The French people are now watched and are incapable of looking back at the authority, making the look a new object of power.[62] In "Discipline and Punish", Michel Foucault reflects on the panopticon a project thought by Jeremy Bentham. The "panopticon" would be a tower of control at the centre of a prison where someone observes every movement of the prisoners without them being able to look back at him. Humans tend to act correctly in front of a camera: they stand straight and tries to look decent in front of the observer. The subject of the film becomes the subject of the observer installing a new power relation between the two. In this context, allowing a one-way observation provides full control for police officers and attacks our freedom. However, Hobbes demonstrates that giving more power to a member of society is the key to societal cohesion. According to his book, "Léviathan" the " man is a wolf to man"[63]. Humans are naturally egoistic beings that fight amongst themselves. Civilians therefore accept to submit themselves to one leader to guarantee security and social cohesion. Thus Hobbes would claim the law is both legitimate and improves social cohesion.[64] Philosophy embraces different opinions on subjects through different experiences. In philosophy, limited quantitative or qualitative evidence is found as one relies on their own subjective interpretations of the world. Evidence in philosophy is, therefore based on theories that are often only conceptualised. Arguably, philosophical evidence wouldn't be concrete enough in a practical situation such as the global security law, but can allow us to conceptualise some of the incentives and issues that come with the law.[65] Philosophy and sociology prove that with a same issue and two different sets of evidence lead to different interpretations of the global security law.

Law, Philosophy and Human Rights edit

A key tension over the justification for the Security Law is the nature of human rights. It is around this issue that there has been much contention, namely with the UN high commissioner for human rights calling for a rewrite on the grounds of human rights[66]. As laws are ultimately justified through the authority that a government is granted to create laws, the only evidential claim against the law is on the grounds of human rights. Human rights are claimed to be "inherent to all human beings"[67] by the united nations but there is less clarity about which rights should have priority. Legally, Human rights hold a higher standing than international law and can be used by citizens to hold their governments accountable[68], so if the liberty of the populace is prioritised over the security of the police then obligations to the law are justified. It is here that philosophy can help exemplify which of these rights should be protected. An approach by Maurice Cranston, can help to provide ways to analyse rights themselves. If we apply some of Cranston's tests, particularly the idea that rights must respond to threats to other or the same rights[69], we can see that we can justify the UN reaction as the right of the freedom of press in regards to the police contributes to the prevention of future injustices done by the police, so the rights of freedoms, in this case, help protect future security rights of the public. On the contrary, the rights the police have to security stand not in defence of any other rights, but instead stand in contradiction to the future security rights of the public. As such, through this combined approach we can justify the UN response and see how we can prioritise rights over one another.

The Interdisciplinary Approach edit

The usage of evidence, and the types of evidence in these three disciplines is ultimately very different, and as such lead to very different outcomes. Political Philosophy uses evidence, with a stronger focus on reason alone, to support normative claims[70], whilst Sociology aims to explain why things are in society and create theories around that, using real life systems as evidence [71] and law is used to exert powers over a society, and is evidenced by societal power systems in place[72]. Evidence used by these disciplines greatly differ, they are still beneficial as they aim to explain different things; Philosophy helps us grasp the purpose of the law in a wider societal perspective, the sociology helps us grasp how the law will impact society and the discipline of law helps explain how the law will be put into practice and on what grounds. The three disciplines, despite some of their contradicting theories, approach the French Security Law from different angles, which ultimately aids us in understanding the law as a whole.

Evidence in the Medicinal usage of Cannabis edit

Introduction edit

The use of herbal substances to relieve pain and treat disorders is an ancient medicinal method.[73] In modern society, this idea has been extended to include debate surrounding the medicinal use of illegal substances like cannabis. There has been much controversy on a disciplinary level due to the different research methods employed in approaching this issue, and subsequently, the different modes of evidence procured. This has resulted in tension between academic disciplines.[74] How could these approaches be mediated? And can they result in a beneficial interdisciplinary perspective which may provide a broader and more informed scope regarding Medical Cannabis?

Evidence in Psychology edit

Psychology uses qualitative research methods- including open-ended questionnaires/interviews- and quantitative- clinically-focused reviews and more statistical, positivist surveying methods, for example- to acquire evidence.[75] These are equally as fruitful in observation of the topic in question.

Regarding systematic reviews, one clinically-focused review was undertaken in 2020, with researchers observing plant formulations, clinical prescriptions of subjects, and their occupational and health elements. Although overall findings of each study were described as ‘nascent’ in relation to each other, isolated studies suggested advocacy for the use of CBD for sufferers of anxiety and schizophrenia.[76] This mode of research presents some benefits: it provides a holistic glance into the efficacy of cannabis on treating mental health issues, with acknowledgement of variables in subjects’ health conditions and occupations. However, there are shortcomings within this. One could argue that the positivist nature of the findings ignores the nuances of the human condition as it does not incorporate direct testimonies of those afflicted with mental health issues.[77]

Furthermore, evidence can be gleaned through the utilisation of qualitative methods including online forums. A forum was hosted by AZDHS[78] in 2013 about the use of cannabis to treat PTSD, with comments being indexed online. General observations found that there was overwhelming advocacy of this from sufferers of the disorder, with claims that it lessens “the brain's sensitivity to outside triggers that can exacerbate PTSD symptoms”.[78] While this mode of evidence provides a more contextualised, humane exploration of this topic, it is limited in the sense that logically, the forum would be dominated by those who are advocates of the cause as opposed to detractors, opening up the possibility of bias within the responses gleaned and consequently narrows the validity of the evidence.[77]

Evidence in Pharmacology edit

One of the early pharmaceutical randomised controlled trials regarding cannabis in relation to anorexia nervosa was published in 1983. One method used was a qualitative questionnaire answered by the participants. The results showed that the subjects who received the active substances in cannabis, Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, improved sleep and experienced less anxiety than those who received placebo. This information was however later presented in quantitative form through tables and diagrams.[79] The trial also conducted quantitative research by measuring weight of the participants but the used dose of THC did not provide a significant effect.[79]

Additionally, a randomised controlled trial in 2017 showed quantitative evidence that THC in form of Dronabinol© can be used to treat Anorexia Nervosa by showing a larger increase in weight of patients who received THC in comparison to those who received placebo. An aspect of the study was that patients with depression or other psychiatric disorders were excluded from the trial[80] This made the study more focused on the weight gain and thus the quantitative evidence available.

In opposition to the two trials previously discussed, a study from Oxford University in 2008 aimed to examine the side effects of medical cannabis. The study provided preliminary evidence from Magnetic Resonance Imaging that long term use of cannabis damages Corpus Callosum. The MRI scan was analysed by separating it into voxels, calculating the eigenvalues and eigenvectors and lastly the values were normalised. The images were also qualitatively analysed and visually compared to placebo.[81] These methods show that the MRI scan provided both qualitative and quantitative evidence.[81][82]

Furthermore, physiological side effects connected to failure in the digestive and cardiovascular systems reoccur in control trials.[83] Several studies on both model organisms and humans provide empirical evidence that the side effects depend on the relation between THC and the endocannabinoid system in the brain.[84][85]

Evidence in Law edit

In contrast to analysing the issue of medical cannabis from the psychological and pharmacological aspects, a legal perspective provides contradictory evidence.

In the United Kingdom, questions about the medical use of cannabis has been regarded since 1998. The House of Lords had selected the Science and Technology Committee to investigate on the possibility of using cannabis for medical reasons. They concluded that there was enough convincing evidence that cannabis had medical capacities to treat many forms of pain. They also recommended starting trials of cannabis to treat medical problems. However, the UK government did not accept the committee’s recommendation.[86] This was partially changed in November 2018 as the government changed the law after the Home Secretary acknowledged raised concerns of parents of children with illnesses such as epilepsy. The current law allows specialist doctors to take the decision to prescribe unlicensed medicines in form of cannabis. However, the law makes it clear that the use of cannabis for recreational purposes is still illegal and that penalties concerning unauthorised use will remain as it was.[87]

In April 2019, Emma Appleby, mother of a nine-year-old girl with severe epilepsy and a rare chromosomal disorder, saw her £4.500 of cannabis oil confiscated by officials after entering the UK from a trip to Holland. Appleby was devastated to not be allowed to use the cannabis oil on her daughter as it was the only solution she found to relieve her daughter’s pain. She also stated that she tried several pharmaceutical “drugs and diets", but all failed to remove her daughter’s pain and symptoms. Appleby added that some treatments made the case worse as they caused side effects.[88] As mentioned, the law was changed in November 2018, however it seems like parents have struggled to get prescriptions.[87][88]

Conclusion edit

Through integrating elements of a psychological approach with phamacological evidence, academics can acquire a holistic understanding of the issue of medical cannabis. Not only by observing evidence within the two separate disciplines to gain understanding regarding the psychological and physiological effects of medical cannabis, but also through the utilisation of both quantitative and qualitative research methods in both disciplines. As demonstrated, these research methods garner evidence of both a positivist and interpretive nature, mediating both for a deeper enquiry in determining medical cannabis’ capacity to treat mental health issues. These methods account for external factors that may have implications on this topic, and that may otherwise be difficult to observe empirically. Moreover, from a legal perspective, this evidence can be put into practice through updating of the regulations in place, which makes prescription of the drug contingent on a doctor's opinion, making it very difficult to access for some people. An interdisciplinary approach would be beneficial in developing those regulations, through the incorporation of evidence from psychology, pharmacology and law to craft a path towards more modernised and evidence-based forms of medication.

References edit

Part 2

Truth in "The Crown" edit

Introduction edit

The Crown[89] is a Netflix-original series that portrays the life of Queen Elizabeth II. This chapter analyses Truth in the episode ‘Aberfan’, which depicts the collapse of a spoil tip that killed 144 people, 116 of which were children, in the Welsh village of Aberfan in 1966.


Disciplinary Approaches edit

Historical Approach edit

There has been consistent enthusiasm for the British Royal Family, particularly our Queen Elizabeth II. Her reign of 68 years has been a source of stability. Amidst the Aberfan tragedy, the Queen’s position was relatively tenuous; declining colonial influence and successive economic crises put pressure on her public response to the Aberfan tragedy, particularly for the Welsh who were seeking ways to become more independent[90]. Nevertheless, the monarchy was viewed as having a necessary role in Britain’s leadership, and economic hardships did not erase pervasive loyalty to the Crown.

Historical Truth is presumed to be objective, and led by evidence; the moulding of Truth into a narrative directly contradicts objectivity. However, historical narratives make partial Truths more accessible, but in order for these to be valuable, we must acknowledge them as such and draw distinctions between Truth and narrative. During the 19th century, an approach to Historical Truth which focused on heroic individuals became fashionable, created by Scottish Philosopher Thomas Carlyle who stated, “The History of the world is but the Biography of great men.”[91] The Crown is a product of this ‘Great Man’ approach, constructing a narrative around the Queen. The show’s depiction of the Queen fulfils the theory’s assumptions that necessary qualities are innate in a predestined ‘Great Man’ and will arise when a leader is needed[92]. This is shown in the portrayal of the Queen’s ability to conform to different situations without becoming emotionally involved. Social Historians would contest this, stating that more evidence is needed relating to groups disenfranchised by this approach, otherwise Truth cannot be interpreted from the evidence presented. However, both approaches to Historical Truth involve the construction of a narrative, whether it be around an individual or a movement, and we should not devalue one source over another as Truth can be gleaned from both.

Film Studies Approach edit

To produce a historically accurate episode, The Crown’s research team relied on quantitative and qualitative evidence. The quantitative evidence constituted data about the Aberfan community, the events leading up to and following the incident, and the casualties. The qualitative evidence came from archival material (such as newspaper articles that commented on the disaster and the societal, political and royal responses)[93], biographical works about the royal family, consultations with historians about the incident, and interviews with the survivors[94].

Nevertheless, this plentiful and diverse evidence presented challenges to The Crown’s writer, Peter Morgan. He shared that the survivors’ recollections of the Queen’s visit to Aberfan contradicted the negative public response to her late arrival (which she also regretted in hindsight)[95]. Therefore, Morgan had to decide how to tell the story.

In the episode, the Queen’s response to the tragedy is presented as cold-hearted and it is strongly suggested that she only visits Aberfan to avoid bad publicity[96]. However, a survivor, Jeff, claims that she “showed outward emotion” and that she “shed genuine tears when a young Aberfan survivor handed her a posey”[97] (while in the show, after receiving the posey, the Queen fakes a tear[98]). The Mirror approach to Truth was not employed because the portrayal of the Queen in the show does not align with the qualitative evidence from the interviews with the survivors. What is the reason behind overlooking that qualitative evidence and thus, risking the historical accuracy of the episode? A possible answer is that The Crown is concerned with a larger Truth, presented through the Interpretative approach. Overall, the show focuses on the monarchy as an institution. Perhaps the Queen’s response is portrayed as unsympathetic in order to emphasise her duty as a monarch to present stoicism during a national crisis, which she fulfills exceptionally well. This could suggest that in order to fulfil her duty, the Queen has repressed a part of herself, namely, her emotional response to tragedy. The central themes in The Crown could be equated to Truths that are consistent throughout the show, and which the filmmaker chooses how to tell.

Behavioural Psychology Approach edit

The episode partly focuses on the differing duties between a Royal and the Prime Minister. Wilson – the then Labour Prime Minister – in The Crown encourages the Queen to visit Aberfan, which she resists and questions as it was not considered her duty. Wilson responds with “to comfort people”, which baffles her[99].

After the Queen did visit Aberfan, a scene depicts Wilson and the Queen confiding in each other about the fronts they put on to satisfy public expectations. The Queen is portrayed as emotionally void, and whether this is true or not, it brings up an important discussion about what the public requires from the monarchy and its government. Wilson reveals that he was Oxford educated, doesn’t like beer, and prefers cigars over pipes “but cigars are a symbol of capitalist privilege”[100] which interferes with his appeal to voters. He comforts the Queen’s inability to have genuine outward emotional responses by stating that “no one needs hysteria from a head of state…the truth is, we barely need humanity”,[101] suggesting that a Queen must be stoic to fulfil her civic duty. Robertson states that “In Stoicism, the passions, or irrational emotions, are conceived of as emotionally charged cognitions…and are, therefore, susceptible to disputation.”[102] This is a representation of a Social Constructivist approach to truth. Here Morgan gives the Queen and Wilson certain character traits for the audience, so they can understand why and how they make decisions. Whilst characterisation is integral to producing a drama, and this demonstrates a logical understanding of these roles, a Truth here has been created that nobody, other than those depicted, can confirm.

Evaluation edit

The Crown approaches Truth in the episode of ‘Aberfan’ through its focus on royal and political response. Whilst being more realistic than other episodes, with respect to the tragedy it depicts, the show is a historical drama, not a documentary, and with that comes necessary compromises. From a historical perspective, the show mainly uses the Mirror approach to Truth to depict historical events that reflect reality. However, this is complicated by the ‘Great Men’ perspective which the show employs, conveying explicitly one viewpoint to the detriment of others. From a Film Studies perspective, the show may be seen to use an Interpretive approach, presenting a logically constructed Truth based on historical data without fully reflecting historical reality. The show also uses the Social Constructivist approach to Truth as it conveys real people as characters for an audience to get to know through their language and social context. This allows the viewer to sympathise, blame and praise those characters for their actions, and develop opinions on the historical and political figures depicted. The Truth of these real people that the show represents, however, is one that cannot ever be truly known by the public, yet is necessary for the makings of a successful drama. It is here that Truth can, (and in some ways, must) be influenced by the creators of the show.

Sources edit

Truth in censorship of women's bodies on social media edit

Introduction edit

Today’s era is profoundly marked by the growth of social media. Given their wide impact, it is important that powerful networking platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, represent the populations in their realities. However, numerous debates have emerged regarding the norms and values that social media conveys. Indeed, the rise of censorship of women’s bodies has caused indignation around the world. This chapter will be discussing how different disciplines conduct various approaches to the truth of this phenomenon.

Truth in Law edit

Censorship, which can be defined as the "official prohibition or restriction of any type of expression believed to threaten the political, social, or moral order“[103], is used by social media in their rules to regulate the display of nudity. However, they restrain women’s bodies’ expression and their interpretation is often subjective to their phrasing. Thus they aren't applied equally to every woman. “Squeezing female breasts, defined as a grabbing motion with curved fingers that shows both marks and clear shape change of the breasts“[104] is supposed to be forbidden on Facebook, but in reality, prominent breasts being touched can be censored whereas small breasts aren't. Moreover, celebrities and women who match the beauty ideals - thin, white etc.- are restricted less severely than others[105][106][107]. The vagueness of those policies allows social media to remove anything they want. Pinterest's policy is a great demonstration of the freedom that the platform has to delete anything without justification : ”We reserve the right to remove or modify User Content, or change the way it’s used in Pinterest, for any reason”.[108]

As for menstruation blood, contents have been removed on the basis of the policy even though it was respected. In March 2015, a photo depicting a fully clothed woman with bloodstains on her trousers and sheets was removed without explanation, except that it didn't respect the policy even though menstrual blood is not mentioned in it.[109]

However, some policies are actually very specific and thus restrictive. For example, “female nipples“ are censored on TikTok[110], Facebook and Instagram[111] but male ones are not[112]. Even though some improvements have been made allowing nipples to be shown “in the context of breastfeeding, birth-giving and after-birth moments, health-related situations“[113] for Facebook and Instagram, it is not generally allowed yet.

In conclusion, because of the law expressed in the policies which induce censorship on social media, the online image of women’s bodies is not a mirror of reality. The ambiguity of the policies and their vagueness makes the truth that is shown subjective and unfair.

Truth in Sociology edit

Social interaction has an impact on humans and their mental state and since it is largely carried out through social media nowadays, the censorship of certain content also plays a part in shaping our society’s mentality.[114]

Social media can affect the human psyche in various ways, including how people view their own bodies and feel about themselves. Especially young women seem to be affected by this and experience for example eating disorders and distorted perception of their bodies due to profuse exposure to certain beauty ideals (in this case, thinness) on social media.[115] Evidently, what is seen on the platforms, and in turn what is not, can severely affect the norms and ideals that are deducted within society.[116]

Content such as the graphic demonstration of women’s body hair, mothers breastfeeding, women's nipples or discussion about natural phenomena like their menstrual cycle has been subject to censorship on social media. What one is left with are social media platforms that provide viewers with an altered picture of women’s bodies, with also not all kinds of bodies being equally represented.[117] An example is the censorship of pictures of overweight women. This promotes unrealistic body images for most girls and women and further invigorates the striving towards bodily “perfection”, which is seemingly defined by the content that does end up being viewed.[118] The issues of "female nipples" and "female body" hair being censored are also especially controversial in society, since for men it is considered socially acceptable to show their nipples as well as body hair.[119]

“Taboo-ing” such topics and pictures in the first place constructs a perception of parts of women’s bodies as something shameful and sexual, and the display of such as suggestive and provocative.[120] Thus, sociologically, the censorship of women’s bodies on social media does not only mirror issues in society like their sexualization and stigmatization but also further consolidates them by constructing an incomplete and consequently non-authentic portrayal of reality.

Truth in Economics edit

Nowadays social media is one of the most effective ways for businesses to reach new audiences on a global scale, and like every firm, social media companies’ first concern is to make a profit.[121] Their primary and most successful way to make money is through selling advertising, meaning that an advertising sales representative sells « space » on their platforms to companies that want to advertise their products.[122][123]

Advertising companies try using societal “supposed ideals” in ads on social networks to maximize the audience they are reaching, in an endeavor to sell a maximum amount of products. An example is the adage: “what is beautiful is good”, in other words: what is attractive makes more money.[124] Facebook's and therefore Instagram’s guidelines consider content where “nudity or implied nudity (even if artistic or educational in nature), excessive visible skin or cleavage (even if not explicitly sexual in nature) images focused on individual body parts, such as abs, buttocks or chest, (even if not explicitly sexual in nature)” against their Advertising Policies.[125]Also, black or “plus-size” women have been largely underrepresented in advertisements in general for a long time, and still are in part. [126] During the ad review process, the advertising sales representatives of the platform decide whether the ad will be made available to the consumers or not.

Companies decide what they show on their platforms and what they do not. An economist would say that all economic agents make rational choices and as firms, social media platforms' primary concern is, as said before, making money. That means that in truth, censorship is a rational choice to pursue their goal of making a profit. This theory is manifested by the fact that women's nipples, hairy legs, or menstrual blood in advertisements can be considered "shocking" and consequently have a negative impact on business.[127]

Conclusion edit

Examining the fact that women’s bodies are being censored on social media through the lens of different disciplines, various explanations of the truth that this phenomenon displays can be deducted. While sociologists would not only argue that the censorship reflects issues within society itself, but also that this censorship constructs an image and expectations of the woman’s body in society that are not entirely truthful, an economist would use a more quantitative approach, explaining the situation to be a result of a business model aimed at increasing the profit of companies. Law provides us with necessary guidelines but also leaves real grey areas with respect to which kind of content is approved for display on social media. As the truth might be situated somewhere in the middle of these explanations, an interdisciplinary approach is necessary to illustrate it accurately.

References edit

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Truth in the definition of Gender edit

Introduction edit


Biologists and sociologists define gender in different ways. Whereas biologists argue that gendered behaviour is due to biological traits and physiological features, sociologists believe that it is a social construct. These different views cause tension between the two disciplines.

A case study that illustrates this tension is that of Christie Lee Cavazos[1] : when filing a medical malpractice suit on a doctor who allegedly misdiagnosed her husband in 1996, she experienced the impact of these different views. She had undergone a sex change operation in the 1970s and had legal documents and the testimony of medical experts stating that she was both physically and psychologically female. Despite this, under the premise that Cavazos would always have male chromosomes, Chief Justice Hardberger ruled that she was unable to file the suit as his spouse, suggesting that the marriage was illegitimate. This shows that socially she could be female, but still be considered biologically male, causing a strain on her rights as a woman; evidently, there is a dichotomy between truth in biology and sociology.

This chapter will further explore this tension through observing the views of the opposing sides and their respective critiques. This kind of analysis is important as gender has such a huge impact on the lives of individuals, as exemplified through Christie Lee Cavazos’ story.

Gender defined by Biology edit

Within the discipline of biology, gender is considered binary, as it is assumed to follow after one's biological sex.[2] According to Oxford Dictionary, sex is defined as, “either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and most other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions.”[3] The physiological distinctions between men and women include differences in chromosomes, sexual organs and hormones.

Female and male chromosomes

Both sexes have twenty-three pairs of chromosomes; however, women only have X chromosomes, whilst men have both X and Y. The presence or absence of the Y chromosome enables biologists to determine the sex of an individual.[4] In the first stages of embryonic development, male and female embryos are almost morphologically identical, however, eventually, due to the expression of the sex-determining gene, on the Y chromosome, the testes begin to develop. In females, the absence of this gene, in collaboration with the presence of other genes, leads to the development of the ovary. The gonads which develop – the ovary and testes – are essential for the development of secondary sexual characteristics in the sexes, as they secrete sex-specific hormones.[4] These include oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Males and females produce all three of these hormones, but in different concentrations within the blood: females have higher levels of oestrogen and progesterone, whilst males have higher levels of testosterone.[5]

In some capacity, the recognition of specific sex-related differences could be highly advantageous, as it would improve the quality of gender-specific medicine.[6] Before the 1800s, men were considered the blueprint of humankind, and women's health was therefore grossly misunderstood[7].

In essence, within biology, the definition of gender is limited to the physiological, with the truth of one's gender being determined by the sexual organs which they possess.

Despite the undeniable biological truths which separate males from females, scientific data which seeks to prove gender as biological is often flawed.[8] Scientists have often interpreted results to studies with bias[9], or have chosen to only answer certain questions which serve the biological sex narrative they had assumed true[9]. The study of neurological differences between the sexes also poses a problem as in fact our brains develop according to our use of it, which since the earliest stages of life is culturally determined[9].

Gender defined by Sociology edit

According to the Oxford Dictionary[10], gender refers to the “state of being male or female as expressed by social or cultural distinctions and differences, rather than biological ones”. This source of information is recognised as being reliable and it removes the biological discipline from the definition of gender. This would mean that someone’s gender could differ from their birth sex, which is an idea also accepted by official bodies such as the Office for National Statistics [11].However, in most cultures, we assume that people follow a particular behaviour according to their sex. The French sociologist Anne Dafflon Novelle, in Filles-garçons: socialisation différenciée? (Girls-Boys: differentiated socialisation? ), argues that society pushes individuals to act in a stereotyped gendered way. She explains that places of socialisation such as schools or families unconsciously orientate children to different roles and behaviours, depending on their birth sex[12].

Social scientists argue that gender is socially constructed, exemplified by Judith Butler's notion of ‘performative gender’[13], or the one of "doing gender" by West and Zimmerman (1987)[14]. These concepts refer to gender as repeated actions and behaviour rather than something which we irrevocably are. The famous quote of the French sociologist and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, “One is not born but rather become a woman” in her book The Second Sex (1949)[15], illustrates her point of view that one’s gender is defined over time through a process of socialisation which begins at birth. She implies that we perform and embody our gender by respecting and internalizing the stereotyped social roles and norms expected from our sex by society.

This shows that from a sociological perspective, the truth of the definition of the term 'gender' is that it is a socially constructed set of actions that are not necessarily tied to one's biological sex, as biology would assume.

However, David Reimer's case can be used to criticise the sociological view. Reimer was born as a biological male, and due to an incident at birth, his parents raised him as a female following the advice of a psychologist. Reimer underwent sexual reassignment surgery, also taking female hormones as he developed through puberty. He found himself depressed and uncomfortable as a woman and, ignorant of his birth sex, felt as if he should be male, making this transition as a teenager[16]. This suggests that the socialisation of Reimer into the female gender was irrelevant and that it was his biological sex which defined his gender, meaning that it is not entirely a social construct.

Conclusion edit

Truth in the definition of gender is not absolute; it varies according to disciplines. Biologists and social scientists, respectively, assume that gender can be defined through biological features and social ones. Their definitions differ because they don’t exercise in the same field, and are not confronted by the same data and evidence. Therefore, the truth of gender's definition is subjective.

Scholars such as Wendy Wood and Alice H. Eagly have worked on a theory that joins these approaches on gender together: the ‘biosocial theory’[17]. This psychological perspective claims that the division of labour is the cause of the emergence of gendered behaviour and differences in the sexes. This division of labour would be due to the socialisation of children that internalise a specific and expected behaviour depending on their sex, but also because of hormones and biological traits that differ slightly, such as size or role in reproduction.

Unfolding the truth about the definition of gender can benefit from an interdisciplinary approach, as different disciplines provide subjective truths which can complement and verify each other, making the final outcome more nuanced.

References edit

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  16. Gaetano, Phil. “David Reimer and John Money Gender Reassignment Controversy: The John/Joan Case | The Embryo Project Encyclopedia.” Embryo.Asu.Edu, 15 Nov. 2013, Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.
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Truth in 21st century advertising edit

Introduction edit

With the advent of the 21st-century came the popularization of social media. It rendered the traditional form of mass advertising redundant, changing the way advertisers communicate with the market.[1] Big data mining and analytics allow advertisers to precisely target audience and optimise reach.[2] However, advertising is increasingly perceived by the public as a distortion of reality; something not to be believed,[3] and in this chapter, we look into the truth and ethics behind this modern form of advertising from the perspectives of three disciplines: Psychology, Economics, and Philosophy, seeking to find common ground between the clashing ideas.

Psychology's Discourse on Advertising's Truth edit

Today, numerous firms propose similar products and services, consequently standing out is the key to success. According to psychologist Harry Hollingworth, to produce efficient advertisements, firms need to capture the consumer’s attention, make a lasting impression, and motivate them to buy.[4] The consumer's willingness to purchase a good or service will depend on their idea of the product, how they identify with it, and their confidence in the expected benefit. The consumer is convinced of the truthfulness of the advertisements promoting the merits of the product(s), and this trust is key to ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty. The understanding of psychological elements enhances the precision of targeted advertising.

Psychologists have developed approaches to influence customer perceptions through advertising. Harlow Gale's theory focused on how colours and designs affect customers’ decision-making.[4] Walter Dill Scott discovered that people form categories of mental images according to their dominating sense, so advertisers would need to refer to all the senses to appeal to each person.[5] His theory is based on suggestion, mental imagery, perception, emotion, and memory applied to advertising.[4]

According to psychologist Gary Lupyan, perceptions aren't objectively true because they are shaped by our past experiences, needs, values, and expectations. As a result, perceptions are subjective to each person.[6] For marketers, consumers' perceptions are of more value than their knowledge of objective reality.[7]

Our perceptions are shaped by the marketer's willingness to create a need and make people buy. Customers’ perceptions of the marketed product do not necessarily reflect reality, since they are provoked and conditioned by marketers.[6] This approach to truth in advertising through psychology allows us to understand the impact of marketing techniques using psychology on people's perception of truth.

Philosophy's Discourse on Advertising's Truth edit

Advertising is an innately utilitarian practice, seeking to “satisfy needs and wants through an exchange process”.[8] However, this attempt to satisfy the customer does not necessarily mean that utilitarian advertising is ethical. For example, McDonald’s advertisements hold utilitarian value in that they satisfy the desires of many consumers, but the health implications of regular consumption of such unhealthy foods contradict the suggestion that these advertisements adhere to utilitarianism. In fact, many argue that the negative impacts of such advertisements overshadow the gratification they evoke in those who view them, so much so that the UK government imposed a ban on television junk food advertising before 9pm in an attempt to tackle obesity.[9] However, from a purely utilitarian perspective, there are arguments to be made for both sides; hiding the truth of the repercussions of habitual junk-food consumption causes more widespread satisfaction among consumers who enjoy it, and it could be argued that this should be prioritized over showing the rather more grim truth of the realities of this sort of lifestyle.

Another major philosophical perspective on advertising is the deontological one. Deontology is the study of moral duty along the lines of good and bad.[10] A deontologist would support the restriction of communication that deceives consumers or takes advantage of their psychological traits for the sake of profit.[11] Therefore, from a deontological perspective, the truth is the most important factor in advertising. In 2019, prompted by advertisements for products such as ineffective weight loss drinks, the UK’s advertising regulator told agencies to eliminate stereotypes “likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offense”, [12] supporting the deontological perspective that advertisements should not portray anything untruthful.

Economics' Discourse on Advertising's Truth edit

Since the beginning of the 21st-century, advertising has become a key business plan for firms and start-ups.[13] Indeed, 80% of Google revenue per year comes from advertisements that they run on their platforms.[14] Social media greatly benefits from this, as US social network ad revenues have nearly doubled from USD$21 billion in 2017 to USD$36 billion in 2019.[15] However, advertising's success as a business plan has created significant monopolies such as GAFA, discouraging new firms from entering the market as they cannot compete against them.

Advertising has benefited from a new economic study called “behavioural economics” which adds "insights from psychology and empirical research on human cognition and emotional biases to economic model”.[16] In the digital era, this means mass collection of user data, subject of the 2018 Facebook trial. The discipline of economics helps perceive 21st century businesses' main motivation: using data to provide more accurate ads, resulting in increased profitability. Therefore, platforms' key interest is the amount of time we spend on their services, resulting in them creating increasingly addictive content.[17]

In terms of data collection, great emphasis has been placed on Artificial Intelligence, as it helps understand users' behaviour by analyzing large amounts of data.[18] The objective of 21st-century businesses that run ads is to make you perceive them not as a tool but a necessity, motivated by the fact that a click on an Instagram ad is worth, on average, USD$1.3 of revenue. Therefore, the study of the economic discipline within the context of ads in modern businesses gives better insight on how regulations on data utilisation[19] allowing a limited amount of data to be stored would prevent centralized economies such as monopolies and psychological addiction to technological services.

Tension and Solution edit

The prevalence of 21st-century digital targeted advertising brings concepts in behavioural economics, a subdiscipline developed from the foundations of economics and psychology, into practice.[20] This interdisciplinary approach has led to marketing and media communication advancements, but also tension between disciplines and different camps of ethics theories. With the discrepancy between the understanding and theorizing on truth across disciplines explored in this chapter, utilitarian interdisciplinary practice has struck deontological concerns, with its coherence with the truth disputed.[21] Despite the argument from some cognitive psychologists that to separate objective truth from subjective perception is impracticable,[6] there remains a need to address the ethical issues raised amid a global climate of low trust levels.[22]

Given the unreliable nature of consumers' perception,[6] we suggest exploring the often overlooked works of communication ethics scholars for the implementation of Aristotelian actor-centred ethic principles in existing frameworks of advertising-communication advisory codes, which emphasize advertisers' practical ethical awareness instead of universalist ethic values.[11] This should come not just as a legal mechanism but more as self-regulation, in response to frequent violations of articles on 'misleading advertising' and 'honesty' in regulatory codes of ethics.[23] From the perceiving side of the issue, a trend of fact-checking political advertisements by institutions, combining positive evidence and political communication techniques, has become increasingly common.[24] Exploration of the possibility of bringing the practice of truth validation into advertising for consumer products and services might provide interdisciplinary insight to truth-seeking in this issue.

Bibliography edit

  1. Wright, E; Khanfar, NM; Harrington, C; Kizer, LE (3 Nov 2010). "The Lasting Effects Of Social Media Trends On Advertising". Journal of Business and Economic Research. 8 (11). doi: Retrieved 10 Dec 2020. {{cite journal}}: Check |doi= value (help); External link in |doi= (help)
  2. Malthouse, EC; Li, H (24 Apr 2017). "Opportunities for and Pitfalls of Using Big Data in Advertising Research". Journal of Advertising. 46 (2): 227-235. doi: Retrieved 10 Dec 2020. {{cite journal}}: Check |doi= value (help); External link in |doi= (help)
  3. Hetsroni, A (18 Oct 2012). Advertising and Reality: A Global Study of Representation and Content. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 2-3. ISBN 9781441118943.
  4. a b c Will, K (14 Mar 2014). "Psychological Concepts in Advertising: Exploring the Uses of Psychology Through a Historical Overview and Empirical Study". Antonian Scholars Honors Program. 30. Retrieved 12 Dec 2020.
  5. Scott, WD (Jan 1904). "The Psychology of Advertising". The Atlantic. Retrieved 12 Dec 2020.
  6. a b c d Lupyan, G (14 Feb 2017). "How reliable is perception?". PsyArXiv. doi: Retrieved 11 Dec 2020. {{cite journal}}: Check |doi= value (help); External link in |doi= (help)
  7. Duggal, R (May 29, 2018). "The One Marketing Truism You Cannot Ignore: Perception Is Reality". Forbes. Retrieved 12 Dec 2020.
  8. Nantel, J; Weeks, WA (1 May 1996). "Marketing ethics: is there more to it than the utilitarian approach?". European Journal of Marketing. 30 (5): 9–19. doi: Retrieved 10 Dec 2020. {{cite journal}}: Check |doi= value (help); External link in |doi= (help)
  9. Rogers, C (27 Jul 2020). "Government rolls out junk food ad ban". Marketing Week. London. Retrieved 10 Dec 2020.
  10. Alexander, L; Moore, M (2020). "Deontological Ethics". In Zalta EN (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020 ed.). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 5 Dec 2020.
  11. a b Kim, J; Kim, C (22 May 2017). "Three Perspectives about Ethical Value in Advertising Business" (PDF). International Journal of Journalism and Mass Communication. 4 (1): 124. doi: Retrieved 31 Nov 2020. {{cite journal}}: Check |doi= value (help); Check date values in: |access-date= (help); External link in |doi= (help)
  12. Tiffany, K (18 Jun 2019). "Gender stereotypes have been banned from British ads. What does that mean?". Vox. Retrieved 9 Dec 2020.
  13. Wikipedia contributors (1 Dec 2020). "Business plan". Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 8 Dec 2020. {{cite book}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  14. Clement, J (5 Feb 2020). "Advertising revenue of Google from 2001 to 2019". Statista. Statista. Retrieved 8 Dec 2020.
  15. Guttmann, A (23 Nov 2020). "Social network advertising revenues in the United States from 2017 to 2021". Statista. Statista. Retrieved 8 Dec 2020.
  16. Perloff, JM (2018). Microeconomics (8th ed.). Pearson Education. ISBN 9781292215624. {{cite book}}: |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  17. Roberts, ST (2019). Behind the screen: content moderation in the shadows of social media (1st ed.). Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300235883.
  18. Wikipedia contributors (8 Dec 2020). "Artificial intelligence". Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 8 Dec 2020. {{cite book}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  19. Wareham, J (10 Feb 2020). "Should Social Media Platforms Be Regulated?". Forbes. Forbes. Retrieved 8 Dec 2020.
  20. Foth, TJ; Gold, AR; Gravenstreter, NT; Xi, Y; inventors; Pitney-Bowes Inc, assignee (2012 Sep 27). "Method and system for creating targeted advertising utilizing behavioral economics marketing experts." United States patent application US 13/353,529. Retrieved 11 Dec 2020.
  21. James, EL; Pratt, CB; Smith, TV (17 Nov 2009). "Advertising Ethics: Practitioner and Student Perspectives". Journal of Mass Media Ethics. 9 (2): 69-83. doi: Retrieved 10 Dec 2020. {{cite journal}}: Check |doi= value (help); External link in |doi= (help)
  22. Leong, LY; Hew, TS; Ooi, KB; Dwivedi, YK (8 Aug 2020). "Predicting trust in online advertising with an SEM-artificial neural network approach". Expert Systems with Applications. 162. doi: Retrieved 10 Dec 2020. {{cite journal}}: Check |doi= value (help); External link in |doi= (help)
  23. Kavoura, A (27 May 2016). "Advertising Agencies' Deontology and the Implementation of the Greek Advertising-Communication Code". International Conference on Contemporary Marketing Issues (ICCMI). Retrieved 11 Dec 2020. {{cite journal}}: Check |url= value (help)
  24. Weiss, D (2010). "Truth in advertising." Campaigns & Elections 2010 32 (298): 34-37. Retrieved 11 Dec 2020.

Truth in Euthanasia in the Netherlands edit

     Active euthanasia is legal      Passive euthanasia is legal      Assisted suicide is legal      Euthanasia is illegal      Ambiguous legal situation      no data

Introduction edit

This chapter aims to explore the issue of Truth in Euthanasia in the Netherlands. This country was the first to legalize the practice of euthanasia. Since then, there has been an ongoing debate over this issue for the last 30 years [1]. Euthanasia is a Greek term, that translates to “good death” [2]. It emerged as a response to the criticism of medical advance, that controlled the lives of humans [1]. What was supposed to give freedom to vulnerable patients, might lead to violation of human rights and doctors’ abuse of power [3].

The research has been limited to the Netherlands, one of the two countries in Europe where active voluntary euthanasia is legal [4]. During the debates in other countries, where euthanasia is considered unethical [4], the Netherlands is used as an example of legalization. Establishing truth in euthanasia requires an understanding of the medical, legal, and ethical perspective.

Truths within Disciplines edit

Law edit

By establishing rules that correspond to reality, truth is the foundation of law. The consideration of whether euthanasia should be legalized emerged in 1973 with the "Postma case" [5]. The lawsuit against a physician, who performed euthanasia, shed light on the debate over the establishment of new criteria and their truths. It allowed euthanasia to be conducted on a patient. In 2002, the Netherlands legalized euthanasia with the “Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act” [5].

The Dutch law considers euthanasia as a criminal offence but does not recognize it as murder [6]. It is legal under the circumstances of “hopeless and unbearable”[5] pain. Article 293 [7], from the Dutch Penal Code, highlights the consequent punishment of an individual who “deliberately terminates the life of another person”. However, when it is conducted by a doctor, who respects the "diligence criteria", it is not punishable. Euthanasia is considered an ambiguous concept from a legal perspective. Therefore, the truth in euthanasia, according to Dutch law, is subjective to a specific case, simultaneously being limited by an objective legal act.

Moreover, euthanasia is framed by the legal interpretivism, but the truth about the act itself relies on the doctors' honesty [8]. When euthanasia is performed, documents underlining the act need to be completed and reported to authorities. Some physicians do not enter the legal process by stating untruthful reasons for a patient’s death. Therefore, the limitation of the Dutch legal framework of euthanasia relies on the truthfulness of healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, in some cases, it can lead to abuse of power and obtaining manipulated truth.

Medicine edit

Truth in medicine is empirical as doctors tend to use statistics to define medical methods. However, this is not the case for euthanasia where many ongoing cases require much deliberation due to a multilateral truth.

The modern criterion of death is based on the “total brain standard” which establishes someone dead after the cessation of all brain activity [9]. However, this standard was debated in 2013 when Jahi McMath was declared brain-dead but was still kept on life support until June 2018 [10] . She retained hypothalamic functions of her brain and did not meet the “total brain standard” criteria. Even though this case occurred in the United States, it highlights that not having a global protocol to determine death, complicates the situation of euthanasia all around the world. Truth in euthanasia is, therefore, multilateral, as it depends on the definition of death, which is still changing.

Voluntary Passive Euthanasia (VPE) and Voluntary Active Euthanasia (VAE) are not authorized in the same proportions by doctors. VAE is seen as “murder” since the medical practitioner administers patients with a lethal overdose of medication instead of letting them die (VPE) [11]. Nonetheless, by associating the death of a person with brain death, our identity is defined by our mind and brain, not by our body. Thus, from this perspective, the body is seen as a form of life support that keeps the brain alive, erasing the difference between VAE and VPE [12]. However, this medical truth is limited by the law as the Netherlands and Belgium are the two only countries legalising VAE in Europe. Therefore, there is no absolute truth in euthanasia since different disciplines clash against each other.

Ethics edit

Studying truth in euthanasia from an ethical perspective is essential for the understanding of the debates surrounding it. It raises moral dilemmas. Ethics, as a discipline, investigates if euthanasia is a crime on itself and if doctors are the appropriate professionals to end the life of a person [1]. In 1978, J.H van den Berg, a Dutch psychiatrist, published Medical Power and Medical Ethics[13]. The author questioned the tradition of protecting life at all costs. He suggested a new medical ethics code, focused on the right of the patient to complete knowledge and power over their life. Pluralist truth in euthanasia can be found in two moral justification suggested by van den Berg.

The first one provides a non-medical justification of “respect for autonomy”. Patients, if they want to, can exercise their free-will and voluntarily ask for euthanasia. However, this raises the first ethical question on the abuse of this method by the patients and the doctors. If the patient is unconscious when euthanasia is considered, who should make the decision?

The second justification states that respect for pain should be considered the main moral principle supporting euthanasia. However, the ‘unbearable suffering’ stated in the Dutch law is subjective. How can the doctor define the truth if he is unable to feel the pain of the patient?

Ethics, as a discipline, try to establish the truth in euthanasia by respecting patient's free will and pain. Ethics use a pluralist truth, taking into consideration different perspectives, all being true to some extent [14].

Tensions between Disciplines edit

Euthanasia emerged in the Netherlands as a response to medical technology [1]. It arose as an ethical idea and aimed to give freedom to vulnerable patients by applying pluralist truth [4]. Later, the nature of this practice changed and lost its initial premise. It is limited by law and legal interpretivism[15], which can lead to abuse of power and manipulation of the truth. The law impacts medical practitioners and restricts their actions. These disciplines aim to cooperate to define holistic truth. However, they create a paradox where one limits another, leading to unwanted solutions.

This idea is linked to the debate between emotions and reason. Truth in law is often defined with reason. It allows law specialists to apply universal practices that do not take into consideration their own emotions. In contrast, ethics use emotion and are based on defining what is right or wrong, taking into consideration the autonomy, pain, and free-will. Dutch medical professionals apply both, reason and emotion, while establishing the truth in euthanasia.

Conclusion edit

Overall, truth in euthanasia can be debated within three disciplines: law, medicine, and ethics. The interdisciplinary truth obtained in the Netherlands does not apply to other countries. They each have their socio-political and cultural factors that influence the regulations. That implies that truth in euthanasia worldwide is more relative than absolute since it depends on different perspectives. Finally, it is essential to acknowledge that truth in euthanasia can be manipulated. Thus, it is linked to power, another interdisciplinary issue, and its abuse by patients and doctors.

References edit

Truth in Virginity edit

{{:Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2020-21/Truth in virginity]]

Truth in Punishment and The Panopticon edit

This chapter explores how philosophy assesses and conflicts with conceptions of truth in disciplines relating to crime and punishment. Postmodernist thought, specifically critical philosophy, conflicts with criminology by critiquing its methodology and conception of truth. Postmodernism also takes a critical approach towards utilitarianism, as seen through its views on the Panopticon prison scheme, thus creating a disciplinary divide with economics.

Criminology and Critical Philosophy on Punishment edit

Criminology applies the scientific method to explain “interactions of processes in law-making, lawbreaking, and the reactions of society to these processes”.[16][17] It takes a positivist approach to knowledge when analyzing issues of crime and punishment. There is, however, some dissonance within criminology, as its early development by sociologists means it is greatly influenced by sociological thought.[17] While criminologists commit to the use of the scientific method and believe there is consensus on epistemology, views of truth in the discipline have historical associations to sociological writings and methodology.[17]

Major criticism has been filed against criminology’s approach to punishment by critical philosophers.[18] In Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Foucault takes a constructivist approach to criminal law and justice. He argues that criminology is not grounded in scientific truths but is a result of social forces.[19] He illustrates this by underlining how law's incorporation of criminal psychiatry in the nineteenth century was informed by a shift in focus from ‘crime to criminal’, and new rationality about how crime may be inherent.[19] Such rationality demanded unique forms of scientific knowledge to justify the characterization of criminals[19] and led to truth formation in the subject. This truism about ‘individual offenders’ still informs criminology today.[20]

Foucault instead supported the analysis of power dynamics behind institutional conceptions of truth.[18] Discipline and Punish thus provided an analysis of the rationale behind methods of ‘discipline’.[21] One critique was of the underlying assumption of homo criminalis, or criminal man.[21] Prisoners, who would otherwise be considered rational actors (homo economicus) in social sciences such as economics, are assumed in criminology to be homo criminalis—someone who is to be treated scientifically and distinct from non-offenders.[21] Foucault suggests this assumption stems from historical methods of information gathering by prisons in the nineteenth century to theorize reasons for offenses.[18] As such, criminology and one of its key assumptions were informed by available academic resources and historical findings[18] rather than a universal or positivist truth.

While criminologists have adopted ideas about truth from critical philosophy, it has generally been limited to superficial changes to existing academic concepts and structures.[18] Habits of sociological thinking have made it difficult for criminologists to fully appreciate and reflect on Foucault’s criticisms, and the pursuit for ideas with fixed meanings[18] has given rise to positivist criticism of Foucault’s work as ‘lacking in rigor and being too ambiguous’,[18] largely due to his intentional use of constructivist ideas.

Economics versus Postmodern Philosophy on The Panopticon edit

Due to its position as a discipline where qualities of epistemological methods are discussed, philosophy lacks a unifying theory of truth, though individual philosophical theories do maintain distinct conceptions of truth. Schools of philosophy hold central dogmas that form the foundation for their ideas. Utilitarianism, as such, holds its central dogma—that the most moral action is one that maximizes utility—as an absolute truth.[22]

Much like utilitarianism, a base assumption of absolutes is required when assessing positive classical economics. Frank H. Knight's 1940 publication, "What is Truth" in Economics?, categorizes knowledge in economics as that of human tendencies rather than that which can be understood through direct observation and "tests".[23] Knight reflects the view of classical economists as he maintains the assumptions of people as rational actors, or those who will always act in order to maximize their own happiness with all available information, and that there exists an "ideal" apportionment of resources in any given circumstance.

Visualisation of Bentham's prison design.

This attempted "ideal" allocation is illustrated in Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon. Originally, the Panopticon was an architectural plan for a prison: a circular building positioning the inmates’ cells around a central surveillance tower. Inmates do not know when they are being watched, so they therefore must act as if under observation at all times.[24] The Panopticon can be seen as a real-world application of Bentham’s utilitarian philosophy, where he defines utility as the property of producing “benefit”, or preventing "pain or unhappiness to the party whose interest is considered”.[25] In the relevant economic context, Bentham posited that utility was defined as a "rational management that ‘lightens’ public expenditure".[26]

In order to understand the Panopticon as a utilitarian prison scheme, it is important to view it through the lens of growing dissatisfaction with the prevalence of capital punishment under the criminal justice system of Bentham’s time.[27] Bentham viewed his system as an improvement over the former in all aspects, stating that his simple architectural idea improved morals, health, industry, and the economy.[28]

Bentham proposed a two-tiered system of efficient management fueled by monopolistic competition. The construction of the Panopticon would be the product of entrepreneurial contractors jockeying for the building contract, required to offer reasonable terms of construction so as to remain competitive in the market. Similarly, market forces of supply and demand allowed for a more efficient implementation of discipline in that "the punishment [of the convict], preventing his carrying the work to another market, subjects him to a monopoly, which the contractor makes as much of as he can (Bentham 1838)".[26]

Despite a system poised for efficiency, numerous criticisms have been levied against the Panopticon. Most famously, in Discipline and Punish, Foucault uses the Panopticon as a metaphor to critique discipline under the modern state system.[28] Although not a direct critique of Bentham’s prison design, the metaphor's influence led to widespread criticism of the concept,[29] which developed a general misunderstanding of the Panopticon and Bentham's work as a whole. Primarily, the Panopticon has existed in modern consciousness solely in terms of Foucault’s description of panopticism as a form of power based on omnipresent surveillance.[30] Due to Foucault's projection of governmental systems on the Panopticon, Bentham’s ideas have increasingly been perceived as authoritarian and pro-punishment. This interpretation conflicts with Bentham’s views in actuality: utilitarianism’s aim to maximise happiness suggests he viewed punishment as immoral except when preventing further unhappiness.[30]

This misunderstanding hinges on conflicting attitudes to truth in morality and societal benefit. As mentioned, Bentham holds as an absolute truth that the most moral action is that which maximises happiness and minimises unhappiness, supporting his Panopticon through its economic benefit, efficiency and internalisation of discipline.[30] Oppositely, the conception of truth by many postmodernist philosophers, including Foucault, is relativist and constructivist. Foucault posits that truth is socially constructed, specifically by power dynamics.[31] By extension, according to social constructivism an action's moral worth is not set - it is dependent on the society in which it is contextualised.[32] This difference in conceptions of truth means the morality of the Panopticon is debatable: utilitarians like Bentham see the plan as entirely morally justifiable, but later postmodern thinkers like Foucault question this idea.

References edit

  1. a b c d ten Have, H A M J. Euthanasia: Moral Paradoxes. Palliative Medicine [Internet]. 2001 Sep;15(6):505–11. Available from:
  2. Annadurai K et al. Euthanasia: right to die with dignity. Journal of family medicine and primary care [Internet]. 2014;3(4): 477-478. Available from: doi:10.4103/2249-4863.148161
  3. Smets T, Bilsen J, Cohen J, Rurup ML, De Keyser E, Deliens L. The medical practice of euthanasia in Belgium and The Netherlands. Legal notification, control and evaluation procedures. Health Policy [Internet]. 2009; 90(2-3): 181-187. Available from:
  4. a b c Dillmann R. Euthanasia in The Netherlands: The Role of the Dutch Medical Profession. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. 1996;5(1): 100-106. Available from: doi:10.1017/S0963180100006769
  5. a b c Griffiths J, Bood A, Weyers H. Euthanasia and Law in the Netherlands. Amsterdam University Press.1998. Available from: doi:10.5117/9789053562758
  6. Kim SYH, De Vries RG, Peteet JR. Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide of Patients With Psychiatric Disorders in the Netherlands 2011 to 2014. JAMA Psychiatry [Internet]. 2016;73(4): 362–368. Available from: doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2887
  7. Criminal Code. 1881, amended 1994. Available from:
  8. Patients Rights Council. Background about Euthanasia in The Netherlands. Patients Rights Council. 2013. Available from:
  9. Bernat J. Chapter 33 - The definition and criterion of death: Handbook of Clinical Neurology. Elsevier [Internet]. 2013; 118: 419-435. Available from:
  10. Sarbey, B. Definitions of death: brain death and what matters in a person. J Law Biosci [Internet]. 2016 Nov; 3(3):743-752. Available from: doi:10.1093/jlb/lsw054
  11. BBC - Ethics - Euthanasia: Forms Of Euthanasia. [online] 2020. Available from:
  12. Shaw D. The body as unwarranted life support: a new perspective on euthanasia. J Med Ethics [Internet]. 2007 Sep;33(9):519-21. Available from: doi:10.1136/jme.2006.020073.
  13. Van den Berg H. J. Medical power and medical ethics. New York: Norton. 1978.
  14. McEvoy P. Euthanasia, ethics, and the Gordian Knot: is the Hippocratic Code obsolete?. Br J Gen Pract [Internet]. 2015 Dec;65(641):624-5. Available from: doi:10.3399/bjgp15X687721.
  15. Stavropoulos N. E. Legal Interpretivism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2014. Available from:
  16. Kobetz, Richard W. (1978). "Criminal Justice Education Directory, 1978-80". Gaithersburg, Md: International Association of Chiefs of Police: 1. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. a b c Conrad, John P.; Myren, Richard A. (1979). "Two Views of Criminology and Criminal Justice: Definitions, Trends and the Future". Chicago, Il.: Joint Commission on Criminology and Criminal Justice Education and Standards: 7–23. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. a b c d e f g O’Malley, Pat; Valverde, Mariana (2014). Dubber, Markus (ed.). "Foucault, Criminal Law, and the Governmentalization of the State". Foundational Texts in Modern Criminal Law. Oxford: 317–334. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673612.003.0017.
  19. a b c Gutting, Gary; Oksala, Johanna (2019). "Michel Foucault". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
  20. Agozino, Biko (2000). "Theorizing Otherness, the War on Drugs and Incarceration:". Theoretical Criminology. 4 (3): p.359-376. doi:10.1177/1362480600004003006. {{cite journal}}: |page= has extra text (help)
  21. a b c Foucault, Michel (1977). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1st American ed.). New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-394-49942-5.
  22. Talbot, Marianne (2014). "Utilitarianism – the Final Word on Morality?". Marianne Talbot Philosophy. Retrieved 30 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. Knight, Frank H. (1940). ""What is Truth" in Economics?". Journal of Political Economy. 48 (1): 1–32. ISSN 0022-3808.
  24. The Bentham Project. "The Panopticon". The Bentham Project. Retrieved 30 November 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. Bentham, Jeremy, 1748-1832. (2007). An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation (Dover ed ed.). Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-45452-5. OCLC 78892876. {{cite book}}: |edition= has extra text (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  26. a b Guidi, Marco EL (2004-09-01). "'My Own Utopia'. The economics of Bentham's Panopticon". The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought. 11 (3): 405–431. doi:10.1080/0967256042000246485. ISSN 0967-2567.
  27. National Justice Museum. "What was the 'Bloody Code'?". National Justice Museum. Retrieved 1 December 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  28. a b Schofield, Philip, 1958- (2009). Bentham : a guide for the perplexed. London: Continuum. ISBN 978-1-4411-0605-6. OCLC 676697592.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  29. Brunon-Ernst, Anne (2012). Beyond Foucault : New Perspectives on Bentham's Panopticon. Farnham: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-9489-2. OCLC 773565449.
  30. a b c Galič, Maša; Timan, Tjerk; Koops, Bert-Jaap (2017-03-01). "Bentham, Deleuze and Beyond: An Overview of Surveillance Theories from the Panopticon to Participation". Philosophy & Technology. 30 (1): 9–37. doi:10.1007/s13347-016-0219-1. ISSN 2210-5441.
  31. Anttonen S. (2000). The trouble of social constructivism. British Education Index. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  32. Jackson, Paul D. (2010). Web 2.0 knowledge technologies and the enterprise : smarter, lighter and cheaper. Oxford: Chandos. ISBN 978-1-84334-538-1. OCLC 467771634.

Truth in Body Image edit

Introduction edit

In recent years, growing social media usage among adolescents has been linked to cognitive eating disorders[1] and negative body image, especially more image-based social media applications such as Instagram.

Tensions between the medical, psychological and media disciplines arise when discussing this topic due to contradictory views and evidence. The issue of “truth” within the subject of body image also creates tension between these disciplines by questioning the objectivity of truth in medicine in comparison to the varying forms of truth drawn on in psychology and the subjectivity of constructed truth within social media.

Body Image in Medical Science edit

Definitions of weight[2]
Category BMI
Underweight ≤18.5
Normal weight 18.5 to 25
Overweight 25 to 30
Obese ≥30

Body image in medicine revolves around the concept of health. A healthy body in medical science is based on the empirical truths surrounding the degree of health attributed to different body types. Medicine tells us that a body is unhealthy when either overweight or underweight. Underweight and obese people were “associated with higher all cause mortality” [3]. Being overweight was associated with greater risk of hospitalization, especially for circulatory and musculoskeletal diseases[4]. Normal weight proved to be the least associated with relative risks of cardiovascular and musculoskeletal diseases and all cause mortality.[5].

There are many health risks associated with eating disorders. For anorexia these include cardiovascular complications such as arrhythmia[6], complications in skeletal development in adolescents[7], delayed puberty and risk of miscarriage during pregnancy[8]. Eating disorders that involve purging also increase risks of dental enamel erosion and vocal cord pathology[9]. Binge-eating is associated with acute gastric rupture and esophageal rupture[10].

Body Image in Psychology edit

Psychology draws on different types of truth, varying from forms of empirical truth based on statistical research to conclusions reached by psychologists that are often based on a more subjective truth using causation and correlation. Psychologists use case studies to investigate the links between social media usage and indicators such as self-objectification and negative body image, which are common markers in teenagers with eating disorders, in order to discern the effects that social media can have on body image and disordered eating patterns.

Social media applications, in particular Instagram, have recently been associated with body image issues for young women which can often link and lead to disordered eating and increased self-objectification[11]. Women with greater disordered eating patterns spent longer on Facebook and were reported to engage in behaviours such as untagging themselves in photos and comparing themselves to their friends (Mabe, Forney, & Keel, 2014).[12] As well as anorexia nervosa, Instagram has been increasingly linked to orthorexia nervosa, which is defined as an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food, with symptoms of orthorexia as measured by the ORTO-15 test being shown to have a significant relationship with higher Instagram use (Turner & Lefevre, 2017)[13]. Despite orthorexia not being recognised as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association therefore not appearing on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there has been increasing peer-reviewed literature appearing on the subject.

Body Image in Social Media edit

Media's concepts are based on the views of society. Therefore, the foundation of what we know is a constructive truth: meaning that everyday knowledge is a socially constructed phenomenon. Body image has long been manipulated by the mass media. Magazines, movies and social media have promoted ideal body types and created the idea that being thin is being beautiful. [14] Young people have resorted to eating disorders in hopes to achieve this desirable body type. The number of eating disorders has been rapidly increasing in recent years due to the dominance of social media and the minimum age for girls with eating disorders is decreasing and is lower than 12 years old. [15] A study carried out by the Florida House Experience showed that a staggering 87% of women compare their bodies to what they see on social media. [16] Moreover, celebrities and influencers use their platforms to advertise "Weight Loss" products based on empty promises of losing weight effortlessly.[17] Their influence fuels young girls to use products that are not safe since they don't require FDA approval. [18] However, in recent years, a #BodyPositivity movement has surfaced that encourages the acception of bodies no matter their shape or form. This wave of different body types being shown on social media helps boost confidence in teenagers. [19] Yet, progress is not perfect. Only 43% of posts under the body positivity hashtag represents plus size women which isn't a representation of reality. Additionally, many posts still glorify being thin and degrade curvier bodies. [20]

Tensions Between the Disciplines edit

The empirical truth in medicine of the desirable body being healthy conflicts with the constructed truth in media of the desirable body being thin. The constructed truth in the media promotes underweight which is associated with increased health risks. However, as truth on social media is constructive it is subject to change of public opinion which has recently shown the emergence of a movement that appreciates all body types. Medical science also conflicts with this constructed truth that encourages people to embrace their potentially overweight bodies and hinders them from introducing healthier practices in their lifestyles. According to medicine, being overweight is also associated with increased health risks and therefore undesirable. Media finds the constructive truth of body image in beauty whereas medicine finds the empirical truth of body image in health.

The constructive truths that steer the body image narrative in the media can be criticised through a psychological lense. Psychology indicates the harm that the pressure regarding body image that dominates on social media causes on its consumers, especially among adolescents. Psychology concerns itself with understanding how and why body image dissatisfaction arises. Social media however, promotes a constructed truth that regenerates structures that further this dissatisfaction. The focus on mental health within psychology conflicts with the focus on physical health within medical science. Psychology uses both empirical and subjective truths to understand how negative body image is detrimental to mental health. Medical science focuses instead, solely on empirical truth, and the effects of a ‘bad’ body on physical health. Here, although there are differences in how the disciplines consider truth, the tension lies mainly in their focus of subject matter.

Conclusion edit

After looking into the subject of body image, it's clear that taking an interdisciplinary approach is necessary. Each discipline’s truth contradicts the others which creates tensions previously explained. The constructive truth of body image in social media is sometimes forgotten. People tend to rely on current trends to assess their value. Consequently, young people, who are exposed daily to social media, suffer tremendously mentally. [21] This is why psychologists should be included in the building of social media platforms for example. This could help create safer apps for teenagers to stop the struggle in body image. Additionally, medicine and psychology have contradicting visions of a healthy human being. Therefore, working closely together they could find an approach to lower people’s BMI avoiding medical dangers while working on their mental health and stop degrading their body image. In summary, we’re still far from handling the struggles of body image that people face but taking an interdisciplinary approach could create progress.

Notes edit

  1. Wayles, K. (2020). Instagram and eating disorders: An empirical study of the effects of instagram on disordered eating habits among young girls (Order No. 27960060). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (2407596359). Retrieved from
  2. Ringbäck Weitoft G, Eliasson M and Rosén M. Underweight, overweight and obesity as risk factors for mortality and hospitalization. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 2008;36(2):169
  3. Ringbäck Weitoft G, Eliasson M and Rosén M. Underweight, overweight and obesity as risk factors for mortality and hospitalization. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 2008;36(2):169
  4. Ringbäck Weitoft G, Eliasson M and Rosén M. Underweight, overweight and obesity as risk factors for mortality and hospitalization. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 2008;36(2):173
  5. Ringbäck Weitoft G, Eliasson M and Rosén M. Underweight, overweight and obesity as risk factors for mortality and hospitalization. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. 2008;36(2):174
  6. Casiero D, Frishman W. Cardiovascular Complications of Eating Disorders. Cardiology in Review. 2006;14(5):227-231.
  7. Misra M. Long-Term Skeletal Effects of Eating Disorders with Onset in Adolescence. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2008;1135(1):212-218.
  8. Rome E, Ammerman S. Medical complications of eating disorders: an update. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2003;33(6):418-426.
  9. Rome E, Ammerman S. Medical complications of eating disorders: an update. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2003;33(6):421.
  10. Rome E, Ammerman S. Medical complications of eating disorders: an update. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2003;33(6):421.
  11. Fardouly J, Willburger BK, Vartanian LR. Instagram use and young women’s body image concerns and self-objectification: Testing mediational pathways. New Media & Society. 2018;20(4):1380-1395. doi:10.1177/1461444817694499
  12. Mabe, A.G., Forney, K.J. and Keel, P.K. (2014), Do you “like” my photo? Facebook use maintains eating disorder risk. Int. J. Eat. Disord., 47: 516-523.
  13. Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Eat Weight Disord. 2017;22(2):277-284. doi:10.1007/s40519-017-0364-2
  14. Derenne JL, Beresin EV. Body Image, Media, and Eating Disorders. Academic Psychiatry. 2006;30(3):257–61.
  15. Aparicio-Martinez, Perea-Moreno, Martinez-Jimenez, Redel-Macías, Pagliari, Vaquero-Abellan. Social Media, Thin-Ideal, Body Dissatisfaction and Disordered Eating Attitudes: An Exploratory Analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019;16(21):4177.
  16. Link Between Social Media & Body Image [Internet]. King University Online. 2019 [cited 2020Nov29]. Available from:
  17. The Truth Behind Weight Loss Ads [Internet]. Consumer Information. 2019 [cited 2020Dec12]. Available from:
  18. Commissioner Oof the. Beware of Products Promising Miracle Weight Loss [Internet]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA; 2015 [cited 2020Dec9]. Available from:
  19. Cohen R, Irwin L, Newton-John T, Slater A. #bodypositivity: A content analysis of body positive accounts on Instagram. Body Image. 2019Jun;29:47–57.
  20. Lazuka RF, Wick MR, Keel PK, Harriger JA. Are We There Yet? Progress in Depicting Diverse Images of Beauty in Instagram’s Body Positivity Movement. Body Image. 2020Sep;34:85–93.
  21. Cramer S, Inkster B. #StatusofMind [Internet]. RSPH. 2017 [cited 2020Dec12]. Available from:

Truth in Pain edit

Introduction edit

Pain is a discomforting experience that involves sensory and emotional aspects, possibly attributed to tissue damage[1], informing the body of noxious stimuli or a problem with internal functioning. However, it is not fully understood in terms of its biological and psychological interaction.

Biology edit

Biology takes a positivist approach to pain, arguing that the only way of knowing is through biological processes that offer an objective representation of reality and therefore hold the data from sensory encoding as empirical data. A stimulus is detected by nociceptors that respond to noxious stimuli, which leads to an action potential being fired. Once the pain threshold is passed, individuals will feel the pain, with the strength of pain corresponding to the frequency of action potentials.[2]

Neuroimaging edit

Neuroimaging techniques allow us to observe pain objectively through neural activity. An example of this is the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRIs) in the diagnosis of fibromyalgia, a condition which causes severe pain all over the body.[3] Fibromyalgia patients have increased neural activity in the pain matrix - a group of brain structures activated during pain.[4] In this case, neuroimaging is used to reach the truth of pain in an objective manner.

Psychology and Philosophy edit

Psychology and Philosophy offer an interpretivist approach to pain, emphasizing how the experience varies significantly depending on individual interpretation and situational perception.

Perception edit

In philosophy of perception, interpretivism suggests that human perception is not simply a reaction to external stimuli, it depends on the intention attached to it; different people react differently depending on their interpretation.[5] An example of the importance of individual interpretation is masochism, characterised by sexual gratification derived from experiencing pain.[6] While pain is usually synonymous with suffering, masochism demonstrates how this is not always true, as masochists contrarily derive pleasure from their pain.

Scepticism edit

Philosophical scepticism questions the certainty of an objective reality; pyrrhonists established sets of arguments[7] claiming that reality constitutes of experiences which vary based on circumstances and individual interpretation[8] therefore, the experience of pain cannot be reduced solely to biology. Scepticism argues for the suspension of judgment, hence, despite the uncertain nature of an objective reality, the subjective experience of pain in humans is real and represents the truth of pain.

The placebo effect is an example of this; one study demonstrates this phenomenon using patients suffering from migraine attacks[9] - the efficacies of the real drug "Maxalt" labelled as a placebo, and a placebo labelled as Maxalt were very similar in reducing pain in patients. Furthermore, when the patients were given the placebo labelled as "placebo", "Maxalt or placebo", then "Maxalt", the pain experienced decreased progressively, demonstrating that although they should physiologically and objectively experience pain, this is not the reality.

Anthropology edit

Anthropology takes a social constructivist approach to pain, focusing on different cultures' attitudes in how pain is understood, and how the meaning and use of words vary across cultures.

Differences in attitude edit

In some cultures, pain is not seen as an issue: a study in rural Nepal found that pain was common, yet no one ever sought help regardless of the severity; pain was perceived to be a normal part of aging, and not related to any health issue.[10] Cultures such as those in American Indian, Asian, Black and Hispanic groups are stoic regarding pain and are reluctant to report it, seeing it as a weakness - whereas Arab and Iranian cultures encourage the emotive expression of pain.[11] In China, pain is often seen as a test to improve their standing in life after death, therefore they encourage bravery and stoicism.[12]

Differences in language edit

Different cultures describe their pain differently - this was demonstrated in a study conducted using participants from Nepal and America that suffered from chronic pain.[13] Descriptors such as "stabbing", "burning" and "sharp" were common across the samples to describe pain, but those unique to Nepalese participants were "catching" and "cloudy". Furthermore, 91.7% of the Nepalese participants used metaphors to describe their pain, which was much less common in the other sample. The results highlight how the meaning and use of words can vary across cultures, suggesting that language is not always a valid measure of pain, as the meaning of words may be misinterpreted by another culture.

Tensions between Disciplines edit

Critiques of Positivism edit

Positivism employed in biological fields may lead to reductionism and the personal account of the subjective experience being bypassed. For example, a patient who complains of pain may receive the wrong dosage of pain medication if the physician neglects the description of the pain severity by the patient and simply orders medical tests, such as an X-ray, blood test or CT scan, to be carried out to find material evidence of the pain. Such cases may be seen when pain is not reported yet there is physical evidence, such as when perception overrides physiology as seen in the placebo effect, or when pain is reported in the absence of physical evidence, such as pain in phantom limbs or tactile hallucinations.[14]

Critiques of Interpretivism edit

Interpretivism considers the personal account of pain to understand the patient's experience, however, social constructivists argue that the experience and account are influenced by different cultural attitudes and language use. Individuals from stoic cultures may deny experiencing pain, and cultures that view pain as a test or a normal part of ageing may not see pain as a threat to their health. The validity of the patient's account is also limited by differences in the use and meaning of words, as social constructivists argue language is a social construct, possibly leading to misinterpretation. This demonstrates how the interpretivist approach is perhaps too simplistic, as it may fail to recognise how individual experience and accounts are influenced by cultural differences.

Critiques of Social Constructivism edit

Social constructivists argue that, due to cultural differences, accounts of pain vary so much that we cannot deduce the reality of pain. However, positivists state that the physiology of pain remains the same across all humans regardless of different cultural attitudes towards pain, therefore the assessment of cultural differences would be of no use. This is demonstrated in positivist methods of pain assessment, opposing techniques revolving around communication and language, where cultural background is relevant. Through a positivist perspective, pain is studied in a reliable, objective way, allowing inferences to be made by using data that is universally comparable between different individuals.

Interdisciplinary Solutions edit

Recently there has been a shift towards research in Neurophenomenology; the discipline's combination of a positivist and interpretivist approach has been supported as a robust means of obtaining truth in pain.[15]

The McGill Pain Questionnaire[16], designed with the intent of combining positivism and interpretivism, uses many pain categories such as "pressure", "tension", "temporal", "spatial", etc. combined with different pain dimensions such as "flashing", "throbbing", "pounding", etc., and compares these descriptors of sensation to descriptors of feeling, such as "exhausting", "suffocating", etc. The results are organised by summing values associated with descriptors to produce a number that represents pain quality in a positivist manner, based upon incorporating interpretivist principles.

Through these examples we can see real world implications that have a strong impact on people's lives, along with the necessity for including interdisciplinary approaches in the investigation of pain.

Notes edit

Truth in Greenwashing edit

Introduction edit

Greenwashing is defined as “the intersection of two firm behaviours: poor environmental performance and positive communication about environmental performance," and has become a popular tactic in response to recent consumer demand for more sustainable goods and services, especially in wealthier nations with a “disposable culture”[17][18]. This demand stems from the growth of science-backed environmental consciousness within the past few decades, but has been capitalised upon as a quick way to turn a profit from a customer’s good intentions[19]. Fast fashion companies are notorious for this practice, due to their global markets and cheap goods, which allow for profitability to continue while allowing consumers to look past how their products came to be. The ‘truth’ is that these two disciplines haven't quite found an effective way to work together, which creates tension in today's over-consumptive Western world.

Greenwashing and the Environment edit

Environmental studies is a discipline that uses analytical tools to evaluate human impact on the environment. In fast fashion’s case, this represents critically demonstrating the impact of their accessible, inexpensive and produced quickly products that keep up with current trends. The truth implied here is science-based and objective.

Annually, around 80 billion pieces of clothing are purchased (the majority going to the United States), bringing in 1.2 trillion dollars for the fashion business. The availability of fast fashion pushes consumers to purchase more, increasing demand for raw materials, and creating waste at both production and disposal stages. The majority of the discarded clothing goes to landfills, so from a purely quantitative standpoint, the eco-friendliest course of action would be to lower manufacturing rates[20][21].

Manufacturing is primarily located within nations with cheap labor, especially in China and Bangladesh. Their sustainability goals and resources may differ from their buyer nations, making environmental (and ethical) issues more likely to slip through the cracks. For example, 90% of clothing purchased in the US includes either cotton or polyester, both of which can have serious effects on worker health. Additionally, cotton growth is water-intensive, and polyester is derived from oil making it difficult to dispose of or recycle[22].

The Case of H&M's "Conscious" Line edit

In 2010, the Financial Time Deutschland reported that the cotton within H&M's clothing that was certified as ‘organic’ from India was actually inorganic. The scandal impacted brand reputation as H&M was one of the first to introduce organic cotton into their clothes in 2004, and since 2007, has been producing garments that are 100% organic cotton. The move originally allowed H&M to be seen as a green firm that cares about the environment[23].

More recently, H&M was also criticised for greenwashing their “Conscious” collection, by making it unclear to consumers what the percentage of the garments had actually been recycled, according to the Norwegian Consumer Authority[24]. Ultimately, H&M cannot back up all of their claims. Their statements are formed from normative truth, a phenomenon where humans declare something good or bad based on qualitative judgement. H&M wants their products to appear eco-friendly, while the objective truth shows that their manufacturing changes are not necessarily effective in heralding a sustainable change.

Greenwashing in marketing edit

Greenwashing is a prevalent practice primarily because of the financial gains that it brings, as well as an improved brand image that increases consumer purchase intention[25]. Given marketing’s goal to increase profitability, the objective truth about the advertised products becomes irrelevant. Truth becomes constructivist; advertisers create their truth about products, which is later sold to the consumers.

Much of broader environmental messaging is formulated to shift the blame onto the individual, while these companies pump emissions and pollution into the environment, and even withhold information relating to future climate change, as Exxon and Shell did in the 1980s [26][27]. They can create a form of guilty normative truth in consumers’ minds, making them believe that they are the ones at fault. Then they appease them by greenwashing destructive practices, making consumers feel better about buying from them in a world where everything carries an environmental impact[28].

However, research proves that the greenwashing brings desirable financial effects only when unacknowledged[29]. Consumers, after learning about products being greenwashed, significantly lose trust in that specific brand, and tend to avoid their products[30][31]. Therefore, an effective greenwashing campaign has to successfully deceive customers, at least to an extent. This approach is in direct opposition to the environmental point of view, where scientific, positivist truth is paramount.

Acknowledgment of greenwashing, however, does not influence only the company that took part in the greenwashing. It can influence the perception of all other products previously deemed to be eco-friendly, even the ones that truly are. It negatively affects person’s trust in the ‘green’ label, effectively lowering purchase intention and making them more suspicious towards seemingly unrelated products[32]. This can have significant effects on the green movement as a whole, legitimate or not.

Opposition to Greenwashing edit

The most obvious example of the tensions between the disciplinary views are the movements focusing on counteracting greenwashing. Its harmful effects have been acknowledged by some of the world’s governments, who have established laws and authorities to fight these practices. Instances include the guidelines provided by the Federal Trade Commission in the United States, some of which are are aimed against the potential greenwashers and carry legal consequences. Several companies have already been prosecuted as a result[33]. Additionally, the European Commission recently passed new regulations to sort companies by sustainability status in order to deter future investment into their practices. This has had pushback from industry experts wondering if it will do more harm than good, but the move is certainly encouraging transparency within business practices into the spotlight [34].

Examples of the tensions are also visible in the actions of other, non-governmental entities, such as a not-for-profit organization Two Sides[35]. Its anti-greenwashing campaign has resulted in a few hundred companies removing misleading marketing claims[36].

In certain cases, it can even be the companies themselves pushing for more stringent measures to disclose environmental impact. In a significant example of both the market and environmentalism working together, DuPont, a large manufacturer of harmful CFCs, skewed the market towards themselves by switching to greener practices, then both advertising that fact and suddenly supporting environmental regulation, hurting competitor sales [37]. This is a constructive interdisciplinary approach that ensures profitability, forces companies to go green in order to compete, and does not drastically mislead consumers.

Conclusion edit

The public is gradually becoming more aware of misleading practices such as greenwashing. Though brands try to suppress truth and maximize profit through marketing, customers are increasingly willing to do their own research, using positivist scientific resources to do so. Ultimately, it is difficult for these two disciplines to work together, as their goals are radically different and often exclusive. However, an interdisciplinary perspective is vital in order to find an optimal middle ground, where the benefits are maximised with respect to both ethics and environment. It is important in fields such as politics, where interests of both parties clash in attempt to impose their own truth, but a broader view could lead to favorable compromise.

Notes edit

  1. Srinivasa N. R. The revised International Association for the Study of Pain definition of pain: concepts, challenges, and compromises. The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain. 2020;161(9):1976–82.
  2. IASP Terminology - IASP [Internet]. 2017 [cited 9 December 2020]. Available from:
  3. Gracely RH, Ambrose KR. Neuroimaging of fibromyalgia. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2011 Apr;25(2):271-84. doi: 10.1016/j.berh.2011.02.003.
  4. Kang, D. H., Son, J. H., & Kim, Y. C. Neuroimaging studies of chronic pain. The Korean Journal of Pain, 2010 [cited 2020Dec 1];23(3):159–165.
  5. Crane T, French C. The Problem of Perception (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) [Internet]. 2005 [cited 30 November 2020]. Available from:
  6. Rees-Thomas, W. Sadism and Masochism. Journal of Mental Science, 1921;67(276):12-17. doi:10.1192/bjp.67.276.12
  7. Vogt K. Ancient Skepticism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) [Internet]. 2010 [cited 1 December 2020]. Available from:
  8. Bett R. Pyrrho (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) [Internet]. 2018 [cited 4 December 2020]. Available from:
  9. Kam-Hansen S, Jakubowski M, Kelley JM, Kirsch I, Hoaglin DC, Kaptchuk TJ, Burstein R. Altered placebo and drug labeling changes the outcome of episodic migraine attacks. Sci Transl Med. 2014 Jan 8;6(218):218ra5. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006175.
  10. Anderson RT. An orthopedic ethnography in rural Nepal. Med Anthropol. 1984 Winter; 8(1):46-59
  11. Givler A, Bhatt H, Maani-Fogelman PA. The Importance Of Cultural Competence in Pain and Palliative Care. [Updated 2020 Jun 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan
  12. Ho AH, Chan CL, Leung PP, Chochinov HM, Neimeyer RA, Pang SM, Tse DM. Living and dying with dignity in Chinese society: perspectives of older palliative care patients in Hong Kong. Age Ageing. 2013 Jul;42(4):455-61.
  13. Saurab Sharma. The words people use to describe chronic pain: A cross-cultural comparison. Journal of Pain, 2016;17(4):S7
  14. Scarry E. Introduction. In: The body in pain: the making and unmaking of the world. Oxford, New York: Oxford Univ. Press; 1985. p. 3–25.
  15. Giordano, J. The Neuroscience of Pain, and a Neuroethics of Pain Care. Neuroethics. 2010;3:89–94.
  16. Melzack R. The McGill Pain Questionnaire: major properties and scoring methods. Pain. 1975 Sep [cited 9 December 2020] ;1(3):277-99. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(75)90044-5.
  17. Delmas, M. and Cuerel Burbano, V., 2020. The Drivers Of Greenwashing. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 13 December 2020].
  18. 1. Nguyen T. Fast fashion, explained [Internet]. Vox. 2020 [cited 13 December 2020]. Available from:
  19. 7. Torelli R, Balluchi F, Lazzini A. Greenwashing and environmental communication: Effects on stakeholders' perceptions | Request PDF [Internet]. ResearchGate. 2020 [cited 13 December 2020]. Available from:
  20. Bick, R., Halsey, E. and Ekenga, C., 2020. The Global Environmental Injustice Of Fast Fashion. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 13 December 2020].
  21. Petter, O., 2020. H&M Accused Of ‘Greenwashing’ Over Plans To Make Clothes From Sustainable Fabric. [online] The Independent. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 December 2020].
  22. Khan, S. and Malik, A., 2013. Environmental and Health Effects of Textile Industry Wastewater. In: A. Malik, E. Grohmann and R. Akhtar, ed., Environmental Deterioration and Human Health. [online] Springer, Dordrecht, pp.55-71. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 December 2020].
  23. Graß, T., 2013. H&M – a role model for organic cotton use in textile processing?. Journal of European Management & Public Affairs Studies, [online] 1(1), pp.1-4. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 December 2020].
  24. Brain, E., 2019. H&M Norway Called Out For "Greenwashing" Conscious Collection Marketing. [online] HYPEBEAST. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 December 2020].
  25. Perry Kulczak, R., 2013. Kulczak-Dawkins, Richard. (2013) - Corporate Sustainability: Profit, Motive and Intention in Greenwash. [online] pp.1-12. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 December 2020].
  26. 4. Glaser M. 1982 Memo to Exxon Management about CO2 Greenhouse Effect - Climate Files [Internet]. Climate Files. 2020 [cited 13 December 2020]. Available from:
  27. 5. 1988 Internal Shell Report "The Greenhouse Effect" [Internet]. Climate Files. 2020 [cited 13 December 2020]. Available from:
  28. 3. Timperley J. Who is really to blame for climate change? [Internet]. 2020 [cited 13 December 2020]. Available from:
  29. Majláth, M., 2017. THE EFFECT OF GREENWASHING INFORMATION ON AD EVALUATION. European Journal of Sustainable Development, [online] 6(3), pp.92-104. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 December 2020].
  30. Ulun, A., 2018. How does greenwashing affect green branding equity and purchase intention? An empirical research. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, [online] 36(7), pp.809-824. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 December 2020].
  31. Chen, Y. and Chang, C., 2012. Greenwash and Green Trust: The Mediation Effects of Green Consumer Confusion and Green Perceived Risk. Journal of Business Ethics, [online] 114(3), pp.489-500. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 December 2020].
  32. Johnstone, M. and Tan, L., 2014. Exploring the Gap Between Consumers’ Green Rhetoric and Purchasing Behaviour. Journal of Business Ethics, [online] 132(2), pp.311-328. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 December 2020].
  33. Elks, J., 2020. FTC Cracking Down On Misleading, Unsubstantiated Biodegradability Claims. [online] Sustainable Brands. Available at: <> [Accessed 13 December 2020].
  34. 2. Simon Jessop K. EU plan to label climate-harmful investments faces finance industry pushback [Internet]. LTA. 2020 [cited 13 December 2020]. Available from:
  35. Two Sides. 2019. Anti-Greenwash Campaign - Two Sides. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 December 2020].
  36. Stuart-Turner, R., 2018. 335 Corporations Remove Misleading ‘Go Green’ Claims. [online] Printweek. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 December 2020].
  37. 6. Grey F. Redirecting [Internet]. Science Direct. 2020 [cited 13 December 2020]. Available from:

Truth in Explanations for the Rise of Human Monogamy edit

Introduction edit

Historically, human relationship have taken various forms, but monogamy, the practice of having only one sexual, romantic relationship at once,[1] has emerged as starkly dominant.[2] Several disciplines have offered different explanations for the factors driving its pervasiveness, tensions which can be attributed to their approaches to truth. Biology subscribes to scientific realism[3], adopting a positivist, empirical correspondence theory of truth, in which the truth they seek to generate mirrors the natural world.[4] In viewing the foundations of social life as biological,[5] they posit that the current prevalence of monogamy is natural and driven by deterministic factors such as the genetic makeup of humans and evolutionary forces. Conversely, sociological approaches based on social theory assume a more constructivist approach to truth, recognising that monogamy arises from, and is constituted in, social and historical contexts,[6] as a social norm and institution rather than an essentialist biological fact.

In this chapter, we will be exploring further exploring how these frictions between perspectives on truth lead the disciplines to conflicting conclusions.

Explanations in different disciplines edit

Essentialist arguments in Biology edit

Male Goeldi's marmosets regularly check their mates' reproductive condition by inspecting her genital scent glands.

Evolutionary Biology edit

As only 3-5% of the mammalian species are socially monogamous, evolutionary biologists deem the prevalence of human monogamy an anomaly.[7] In seeking an explanation, academics have extrapolated ethological work to humans.

Research suggests that ecologically imposed monogamy may originate in early monogamous couples when population levels were low and scarce resources could only provide well for a couple and their offspring. Male and female partnerships thus emerged as the most effective way to utilise resources.[8] This explanation is well-documented amongst biologists; Benshoof and Thornhill indicate that monogamy is mutually beneficial, citing the example of marmoset Callimico goeldii. The female’s reproductive success heavily depends on "the food and protection provided by the hunting male", while the male invests in his relationship to ensure "the survival of his young and thus his own reproductive success".[9]

Whilst this explanation has been contested, the general consensus is that a monogamous mating system is more likely to survive within a population. Cooperative breeding details the differences in kin-based benefits between non-monogamous and monogamous mating systems. As kin-based benefits are diminished under female multiple mating, biologists predict that monogamy is key to increase relatedness within a system and receive the subsequent evolutionary advantages.[10]

Neuroscience edit

Neuroscience treats social behaviour, such as monogamy, as a stable, scientifically explainable phenomena, which can be understood through manipulating neural circuits in the brain and observing their behavioural outcomes. Consequently, neuroscientists posit that monogamy in humans is the inevitable outcome of a linear chain of neurochemical reactions.[11][12]

Neurological processes have been connected to genetic make-ups as modes of explanation. Research carried out by Larry Young in 1998[13] claims to have found a "monogamy gene", using vole species displaying diverging social behaviours, from those associated with promiscuity (Microtus montanus) to monogamy (Microtus ochragaster). The results were then used as a proxy for examining the human neural model for monogamy.[14] A longer strand of a section of microsatellite DNA, changing the neuroanatomical distribution of the neuropeptides oxytocin and vasopressin receptors, has a positive causal relationship with monogamous social behaviours, such as "pair bonding, parental care and mate guarding."[13] The distribution of these receptors triggers a neurochemical event with behavioural outcomes, ultimately determining whether the individual is monogamous or nonmonogamous.

Another neuroscientific study[15] linked heightened brain activity in areas associated with social pain during conditions of jealousy, suggesting monogamy is maintained through neural negative reinforcement.

Constructivist arguments in Sociology