Diagnostic pitfalls Ethnocentric fallacy

Culturally related syndromes have to be conceptionally and clinically differentiated from extracurricular but not pathological ritual behaviour, which is institutionalized in a culture or subculture and sanctioned by a religious or therapeutic ceremonial. As a general statement it can be said that the culturally related syndromes described above (i) are not integral parts of religious or therapeutic ceremonials and (ii) are defined as abnormal behaviour by the indigenous experts who explain these conditions in terms of the particular folk aetiology that determines traditional management. Before diagnosing apparently unusual behaviour or ideas in a person of another cultural group the psychiatrist has to inquire with discerning key informants of that cultural group whether such behaviour and ideas are considered culture congenial or pathological in a given situation. By attaching pathology labels to behaviour and ideas, which in the so-diagnosed person's own cultural group are considered normal in a particular context, the psychiatrist may commit an ethnocentric fallacy by ignoring the foreign culture's norms of behaviour and ideation, religious and other ceremonial practices, and its folk system of explanation.

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