2023-24 Psychology Department Aston-Gottesman Lecturer -- Kathryn Tabb, Bard College


2023-2024 Psychology Department Colloquium Series
and the Aston-Gottesman Lecture Series


Kathryn Tabb
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Bard College

“The Medicine of Imprecision: Psychiatry, Psychology, and Public Health”

A recent vogue in medicine has been for “precision”. This new paradigm, also referred to as “personalized” medicine, promises to particularize patient care to the sensitivities of each of our bodies, which we ourselves may or may not be aware of, by identifying rare genetic variants and other biomarkers of disease. In response, in the early years of this century the National Institute of Mental Health broke from tradition by beginning to actively discourage the use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In its place the NIMH introduced an alternative classification tool, not for patients but for research targets: the Research Domain Criteria matrix, which allows scientists to present their projects in terms of the biomechanisms they target, rather than a specific patient population. RDoC constitutes an enormous conceptual shift, wherein psychopathology no longer explicitly demarcates the subject-matter of psychiatric research. The case defending this sort of revisionist view of psychiatry’s project has not yet been made. Instead, the shift in priorities has been implicitly justified by an assumption about psychiatric taxonomy: that the true essences of its categories will lie at the level of the biomechanism. This assumption is no doubt question-begging; I consider whether it is also wrong. While advocates of precision psychiatry often characterize it in opposition to traditional practices and methods that are vague, careless or nonspecific, I conclude by arguing that the true opponent of precision medicine — that is, the sort of medicine that stands to lose the most by its ascendency — is general medicine. And this, I believe, should concern us.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024
301 Gilmer Hall

Time and Location: 
3:30pm, Gilmer 301
Wednesday, May 1, 2024
"The Medicine of Imprecision: Psychiatry, Psychology, and Public Health”