The Scientific Approach to Neuropsychiatry

  • Andrea E. Cavanna


The scientific method is central to the neuropsychiatric approach as applied to both research and clinical settings. The work of Galileo Galilei, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton marked the birth of the scientific method in the modern era. In the seventeenth century, the success of the newly established empirical method of science was celebrated by the development of dedicated institutions and scientific journals promoting the exchange of scientific ideas. The experimental method is the foundation of empiricism or positivism, according to which knowledge is created by a process involving observation and that scientific theories are the result of generalisations from such observations via induction. The induction method reached its peak of popularity at the beginning of the twentieth century with a group of philosophers collectively referred to as the Vienna Circle, who championed neopositivism or logical positivism. Bertrand Russell exposed fundamental problems with the induction method, and Karl Popper proposed to replace the principle of verificationism with falsificationism. More recently, fundamental criticism to both logical positivists’ verificationism and Popper’s falsificationism came from three influential ‘post-Popperian philosophers of science’. Their common criticism to both the logical positivists and Popper has important implications for the theory and practice of neuropsychiatry.


Empiricism Falsificationism Induction Positivism Scientific method 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea E. Cavanna
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept of NeuropsychiatryUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUnited Kingdom

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