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Table 1 Overview of four general approaches to explaining psychopathology. Notes. Traditionally, research has focused on the simple biopsychosocial approach, with more recent research focusing on complicated and complex biopsychosocial approaches. The psychological primitive approach permits biopsychosocial complexity while maintaining high comprehensibility. It also ties psychopathology research directly to basic psychological science because non-pathological phenomena emerge from these same psychological primitives

From: Psychological primitives can make sense of biopsychosocial factor complexity in psychopathology

  Claims Objective Comprehensibility Explanatory power
Simple biopsychosocial A small set of necessary and sufficient factors fully explains a given psychopathological phenomenon Identify the small set of necessary and sufficient factors that fully explains a given psychopathological phenomenon High Low
Complicated biopsychosocial A complicated set of necessary and sufficient factors fully explains a given psychopathological phenomenon Identify the complicated set of necessary and sufficient factors that fully explains a given psychopathological phenomenon Low-to-moderate Low-to-moderate
Complex biopsychosocial Factor associations with psychopathology are indeterminate; there are no nomothetic factor-based explanations for psychopathology, only idiographic explanations Identify the necessary and sufficient set of factors that explains a given instance of a psychopathological phenomenon; these factors will vary across instances such that a viable nomothetic factor-based explanation is not possible Low High
Psychological primitives Because factor associations are indeterminate, psychopathology is best explained in terms of a small set of psychological primitives; factors can influence the primitives from which psychopathological phenomena emerge Understand the basic science of psychological primitives (e.g., concepts); apply this to advance the understanding, prediction, and prevention of psychopathology (e.g., an intervention that disrupts the suicidality concept) High High