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The role of imagination in the disease process: Post-Cartesian history


A previous paper traced the pre-Cartesian history of the concept of imagination as a causal variable in physiopathology. The present paper continues that history, showing the prohibitive impact of mind-body dualism and sampling the views of some eighteenth- and nineteenth-century supporters of the theory. Contemporary research has produced abundant evidence supporting the historic belief that imagination has an arousal function and a direct link to physiopathology. This literature is surveyed and possible therapeutic applications are discussed.

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Correspondence to C. E. McMahon.

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McMahon, C.E., Hastrup, J.L. The role of imagination in the disease process: Post-Cartesian history. J Behav Med 3, 205–217 (1980).

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Key words

  • imagery
  • mind-body dualism
  • placebos
  • psychological medicine