Cognitive Psychology and Hermeneutics: Two Approaches to Meaning and Mental Disorder

This paper compares cognitive psychology and hermeneutics as two conceptualizations of human behavior and psychopathology. Cognitive psychology explains human behavior by examining the cognitive frameworks that are used to interpret the world. Psychopatho logy is the result of incompatible cognitive schemes, resulting in conflicting strategies. The focus of the explanation is on individual theories about the world. From a hermeneutic perspective, human action is a meaningful response to the world, based up on cultural traditions. Psychopathological behavior is conceptualized as a strange response, being in need of interpretation. The emphasis is not on individual theories but on shared modes of practical understanding. The differences between cognitive psyc hology and hermeneutics are elaborated upon by discussing an example of psychopathological behavior: PTSD.