Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Art (BA)




Danielle Bromwich

Subject Categories

Mental Disorders | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychological Phenomena and Processes | Theory and Philosophy


What is the interaction between a psychiatric patient and their diagnosis? How do they respond to being classified? A number of philosophical theories attempt to explain the interaction between the diagnosed patient and their classification. Ian Hacking develops an account of interaction which holds that objects of human science classification are influenced by the awareness of the classification in a way that changes both the classification and its object. Hacking thinks that psychiatric patients are “interactive kinds” whose awareness of their classification causes changes in the individuals' experience of themselves, and thus changes in their classification. Hacking claims that these “looping effects” destabilize the classifications and their objects, and make them “moving targets.” But Jonathan Tsou responds to Hacking with the claim that many objects are less subject to looping effects than Hacking thinks. Tsou attributes this stability to most classifications' grounding in biological ubiquities.

Theories of interaction must account for the lived experience of these objects of classification. The narratives of psychiatric patients provide opportunities to test Hacking's and Tsou's versions of looping effects theory. These written first-person narratives were found in public sources on the internet. A broad review of psychiatric patient writing revealed that most patient narratives fell into one of two categories, “true believers” or “skeptics,” distinguished by the patients' perceived beliefs about the legitimacy of their diagnosis.

Previous Versions

Aug 7 2013