Lobotomy Wins

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At a Royal Institution lecture
last night on the worst ideas on the mind there were some polite, but
nevertheless underhand, tactics on show in an attempt to sway the vote towards
one of four ideas. The ideas were lobotomy, drug company advertising,
post-trauma counselling and the Freudian theory of hysteria.
Each speaker had ten minutes
to convince us that their idea was the worst idea anyone had ever had on the
mind. Ultimately, simple disgust won over the audience and lobotomy took the
I voted for drug company
advertising or more specifically, as explained by Joanna Moncrieff, drug
company promotion of the ‘chemical imbalance’ hypothesis of mental illness.
What’s my reasoning? Well the
idea of people with depression having a chemical imbalance is such a
widespread, and incorrect, idea that it needs to be challenged publicly. The
problem is that it directly leads to the idea that depressed people need to
take drugs to ‘rectify’ this so-called imbalance. Many psychologists and even
growing numbers of psychiatrists would agree that this approach is
fundamentally flawed and there is little or no evidence for it.
What about the other
contenders? Yes, trauma counselling has now been found to be worse than useless
but now we know that and so presumably we’ll stop doing it. Lobotomies are
almost, but not quite, extinct; so why get particularly upset about them
nowadays? Freud’s theory of hysteria triggered many of his later discoveries
and the occassional modern misdiagnosis of a conversion disorder is a small
price to pay for the foundation of psychoanalytic ideas.
I realise that my stance is
utilitarian and focussed on the present, but that, I think is where we need to
If allowed more philosophical
leeway I would point to Cartesian dualism as the worst idea on the mind. The
idea that mind and brain are separate just goes on and on and on and on to the
most tedious degree. If your mind isn’t your brain then what the hell is it?
No, actually, please don’t answer that, it’ll only give me a headache.
And without further ado, the
Mind Hacksters have the results for both best and worst ideas on the mind.
the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD
is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University
College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about
scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book
“Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.