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date: 21 February 2020


A Dictionary of Psychology

Andrew M. Colman

reductionism n. 

An attempt to provide a complete explanation of a phenomenon in terms of events or processes occurring at a lower or more basic level. Thus a psychological phenomenon may be reduced to neurophysiological processes, which in turn are correlated in detail with biochemical processes, and these may be similarly reduced to chemical processes, and the chemical processes to physical processes. Reductionism usually entails a belief that the lower or more basic processes in some sense explain the higher; but critics argue that such correlations cannot amount to a complete explanation any more than a specification of the electronic or electrical processes taking place in a computer could explain the computations that it performs. reductionist or reductionistic adj.