What Is The Mind-Body Problem In Psychology?

Any student of psychology will at some stage encounter the mind-body problem. It’s a debate that has a basis in both scientific and philosophical fields, and it is a fascinating and complex subject. Here is a brief overview of the topic.

The key question centres on the problem of whether the mind is a part of the human body, or whether the body is part of the mind. To what extent should we consider them to be separate? From a scientific perspective, the brain is certainly a part of the body. However, from a philosophical perspective, the mind and consciousness could be seen as separate.

So what do psychologists make of this conundrum? There are various approaches to the question, which can be broadly divided into two categories: dualist or monist. However, within these two categories are numerous variations and grey areas which focus on the relationship between the mind and body.

The dualist approach can be traced back to the theories of Descartes and it states that the mind and body are separate entities, but they can both control and influence human behaviour. For example, the mind can tell the body what to do, but there are also many examples of human behaviour that can be explained as a reaction to purely physical desires.

Monism is the view that mind and matter are not separate, and there is only one reality. There are two main branches of monism: materialism and phenomenalism. Psychologists who take the materialist approach believe that the mind and thought processes are rooted in the body, through the central nervous system and the brain.

Phenomenalism takes the approach that only the mind exists, and material objects such as the body are purely based on our perception of them. There are various examples of studies which offer evidence for both sides of the argument. 

For example, patients in a hypnotised state have been observed to blister when told they have touched a hot object, despite the fact that they only touched an item of normal temperature. This experiment has been cited as proof that the mind can control the body, or that ‘mind moves matter.’

Ultimately, the relationship between the body, the brain, and human consciousness is an ongoing area of scientific inquiry and it is perhaps not surprising that there are many conflicting approaches to the subject.

As a student of psychology, you will be expected to show an understanding of the core concepts of the mind-body debate. This article is just a very brief overview of the topic, which has preoccupied the best scientific and philosophical minds for centuries. There are many published articles and books on the subject that can help to deepen your understanding.

Being able to weigh the evidence for yourself and justify your arguments will help you to understand the core concepts of psychology better, and the process will hone your research and analytical skills. All this will make you a stronger student who is confident of tackling detailed and complex debates.

If you are looking for Origins of Psychology A Level, please visit our website today.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search