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Analysis of the Hierarchical Nature of Clinicians’ Organization of Mental Disorders




Keeley, Jared

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The organization of mental disorders by clinicians can be viewed as a type of folk taxonomy. If this is true, the organizations of clinicians should exhibit certain properties; specifically, they should be hierarchical. This hierarchical nature is implicit in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), which is the current organizational standard in the field of mental health. This study examined the organizations of three samples of clinicians: two expert samples (N = 7 and 21, respectively) and one novice sample (N = 13). The results indicate that clinicians do organize mental disorders in a hierarchical fashion, but not to the degree found in the DSM-IV. Remarkably, clinicians of varying experience and geographic location tested under separate methodological conditions produced the same hierarchical pattern.