Francesco Gagliardi

Prototype Theory in Clinical Reasoning: Syndromes between Scientific Discovery and Diagnosis

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Informations and abstract

Keywords: Categorization, Philosophy of Medicine, Spontaneous Categorization, Supervised Categorization, Syndrome Discovery, Theories of Concepts.

In this paper we show how processes of categorization based on prototypes can be used to explain both the first stage of the discovery of a new disease – the identification of a new syndrome – and the nosological diagnosis that is based on the recognition of typical syndromic complexes in clinical cases. These two activities of clinical reasoning are joined by the same type of conceptual representation – the prototypes – but they differ in the categorization process, which is spontaneous or unsupervised in the case of syndrome discovery, and is supervised in the case of diagnosis. Furthermore, these two categorization processes are in a “recursiveµ relationship, because each one is partly the cause of the other, and jointly they constitute a unifying cognitive explanation of syndrome discovery and syndromic diagnosis.

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