ch14

Psychology in Action

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the "sickest" patients are those who refuse to admit they are sick just as the worst sinners were the witches who refused to admit to the practice. It is the expert who knows best--it is always the person suspected of either witchcraft or mental disorder that can do no right. Szasz is indignant that the institutional psychiatrist who is portrayed as a friend of the patient, urging him or her to confide innermost secrets, can use this information to destroy the credibility of the patient. Furthermore, records are kept in the accuser's possession. Neither the patient nor the witch has access to records and so neither generally knows the contents. Szasz points out that the records are in the "language" of the keeper; this means that the terms are put in psychological jargon that the patient neither understands nor is able to challenge. The psychiatrist is not an agent for the patient, but for society who pays for the service, just as witchprickers were working for the local government or church and not for the person they were pricking. Instructor’s Resource Guide                              Chapter 14                                         Page   181
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A second similarity between the two groups is in the use of special tests for diagnosing the problem. One of the beliefs during the witchcraft period was that the devil made a pact with the individual before he entered the body. This was supposed to be evidenced by a skin blemish with the general shape of a claw; however, there was no difficulty in most cases in finding moles, birthmarks, and other lesions that were similar enough to warrant a diagnosis. As time went by, the effort to find these marks intensified, so people were shaved to facilitate the procedure. Finally, it was decided that since the devil was a cunning creature, he might rely upon invisible marks on the skin that could be identified by a lack of sensitivity. Thus, the art of witch pricking began in which "workers for the movement," armed with the newest diagnostic procedure, stuck people with pins. Another procedure was the water test. An accused witch would be tied up and tossed in deep water: if she floated, she was guilty; sinking was a sign of innocence--in which case she was dead right after all. Szasz points out that the modern day equivalent of this is the use of personality tests for detecting emotional problems. He especially incriminates projective testing such as the Rorschach and Thematic Apperception Tests (perhaps, because they are more subjective than personality inventories) by saying there is no such thing as a normal testing response on these tests. He claims that it was easier for an accused witch to survive dunking than for an accused mental patient to survive testing.
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