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October 2021

Int J Soc Psychiatry. 1980 ; 26(1): 41-52.

Deception and self-deception in shamanism and psychiatry.

Warner R.

The author argues that both shaman and psychiatrist are obliged to use a degree of self-deception in assuming their roles. The shaman must rationalize his use of trickery to impress his patients, and the psychiatrist deceives himself that his psychotherapeutic techniques have specific healing properties in the face of evidence which suggests that he often merely mobilizes the general effects of placebo and suggestion. Shaman and psychiatrist appear to use the same mental mechanisms in deceiving themselves. Inadequate method and theory may be supported by reference to personal experience and unrelated data or defended by circular reasoning or comparison with an even more inadequate system. The practitioner may also allow his perception of his abilities to be moulded by social consensus.

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