An Analysis of Interpersonal Manipulation

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 17 (2):173-197 (1992)
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The term ‘manipulation’ is frequently employed but rarely discussed or defined in psychiatric circles. This paper reviews previous conceptual analyses of the term by philosophers and psychiatrists, and examines its use in ordinary discourse. A series of characteristics which comprise the conceptual core of the term when it is unambiguously applied in interpersonal settings are proposed. Manipulation is contrasted with other behavior control methods such as rational persuasion and coercion, with emphasis on the role played by deception and the communicative context in which the manipulative transaction occurs. It is argued that manipulative behavior is fundamentally intentional, and the usefulness of the concept of ‘unconscious manipulation’ is questioned. Though the proposal that Manipulative Personality Disorder be formally recognized as a new diagnostic category is rejected, it is urged that the concept of manipulation receive wider attention and discussion within the mental health community



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