Dualism in Psychology: The Mind-body Problem

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Mind-body dualism psychology refers to the idea that the mind and body are two different things that can be separated. In dualism, the brain is seen as a physical object only, while the mind is seen as something beyond the strictly physical. Humans are characterized as having both a mind (non-physical) and body/brain (physical). This is known as dualism.  

What Is The Mind?

The mind includes everything in your consciousness. It includes thoughts, reasoning, judgment, and emotions. As you experience something, your mind processes the new information, which ultimately helps you to form conclusions. 

What Is The Brain?

The brain is a physical, biological object. It is a part of your body, whether you’re conscious or not. It’s a mass of soft nerve tissue inside the skull. Although science has proven that mental processes are coordinated in the brain, dualism questions that there is actually a mind that is separate from the physical output of the brain.

  • Descartes/Cartesian dualism argues that there is a two-way interaction between mental and physical substances.
  • Descartes argued that the mind interacts with the body at the pineal gland. This form of dualism or duality proposes that the mind controls the body, but that the body can also influence the otherwise rational mind, such as when people act out of passion. Most of the previous accounts of the relationship between mind and body had been uni-directional.
  • The different approaches to psychology take contrasting views to whether the mind and body are separate or related. Thinking (having the freedom of choice) is a mental event, yet can cause the behavior to occur (muscles move in response to a thought). Thinking can therefore be said to make things happen, “mind moves matter”.
  • Behaviorists believe that psychology should only be concerned with “observable actions”, namely stimulus and response. They believe that thought processes such as the mind cannot be studied scientifically and objectively and should therefore be ignored. Radical behaviorists believe that the mind does not even exist.
  • The biologists who argue that the mind does not exist because there is no physical structure called the mind also follow this approach. Biologists argue that the brain will ultimately be found to be the mind. The brain with its structures, cells, and neural connections will with scientific research eventually identify the mind.
  • Since both behaviorists and biologists believe that only one type of reality exists, those that we can see, feel, and touch; their approach is known as Monism.

Both have different approaches to how they view the mind and body, however it is an interesting concept to explore and get curious around.

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Ritika Matta
This is Ritika Matta, I’m a Counseling Psychologist and a writer. I am passionate about spreading mental health awareness and do the same through my work which is reflected in my blogs and articles.

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