What is the etiology?
From the most remote antiquity, the human being has always wondered about the reality and the circumstances that surround its passage through the world. Where do we come from and what surrounds us? Where we go? Why do we exist? How are the creatures, conditions and phenomena we observe explained? And one of the questions that perhaps we have asked the most when observing a phenomenon, action or situation: what is its cause?
It is possible that when we hear a doctor, psychologist or other professional, he will use the word etiology at some point to solve some of the previous questions, a word that may be infrequent or unknown to most people. What is the etiology? In this article, we will briefly analyze this concept .
- Related article: "The 12 branches (or fields) of Psychology"
The etiology concept
The etiology is the branch of science that is responsible for the study and analysis of the cause or genesis of things , phenomena or situations.
It is important to take into account and emphasize that it is a scientific study, analyzing and exploring the variables that can generate the analyzed phenomena. To do this, experimental methodology is used to analyze the relationships between different variables.
In this way, the concept of etiology would not include beliefs that are not empirically and experimentally contrasted, although they also try to give a meaning and attribute an origin to different aspects of reality. However, although it is not a term widely used by the general population, it is often used at a popular level to talk about the cause attributed to a phenomenon even though this linkage is not proven.
Analyzing a phenomenon by parts
We must bear in mind that in any natural process there are always many factors that influence more directly or indirectly what is being studied. Therefore, through the etiology we try to clarify which are the main processes or phenomena that explain something, assuming that probably they will not be the only ones and that surely there are many others behind them.
So, what we are trying to do is break down a phenomenon into parts and put the focus on its root, understanding that the cause that interests us must provide a combination of Completeness and simplicity to the explanation of what happens .
Not only the direct cause
In addition to the causes themselves, It also allows to establish factors and variables that are directly involved in the genesis. of what has been studied or that make it difficult.
The predisposing or protective factors that participate or make it less likely the appearance of, for example, a disease are studied and analyzed. The triggers and enhancers are also worked on.
In conclusion, the variables that interact to cause a situation are studied, taking into account that in general there is no single cause.
The etiology in the sciences
The etiology is a science that in turn is part of many other disciplines, since the latter also explores the reason or cause of the phenomena of a particular field of knowledge. Next we will see how the etiology is applied and in different areas.
In the field of medicine the term etiology is used to talk about the cause of diseases and disorders suffered by users or patients.
The origin of a disease is sought in order to understand the mechanism of action and the functioning of this and from that knowledge and research and generate treatments that can cure or relieve their symptoms.
The causes in question are usually biological and in many cases can be very clear, although the same disease can have different causes in different cases.
In the field of psychology, the etiology also looks for the causes of an individual having different cognitions or beliefs, whether or not he performs a specific behavior or the factors that cause a mental disorder.
In this area, the study of causes is relatively more complex than in the previous case, given that mental phenomena are not directly observable. It is necessary to extrapolate the information from the relationships established between different variables.
In sociology, the etiology is responsible for searching, studying and analyzing the factors that explain the origin of a particular social phenomenon.
Aspects such as leadership, the formation of a group and phenomena such as group polarization, the existence of urban tribes, beliefs and customs are examples of topics from which the origin is sought in sociology (and also from social psychology).
As in medicine, biology also discusses the cause or etiology of the different biological processes that occur both in our species and in others.
The origin of processes and phenomena such as reproduction, feeding, migration or the characteristics of living beings, for example, is analyzed. Depending on whether the focus is on the micro or macro, the etiology sought will vary.
In law, the word etiology is not as commonly used as in the health sciences, but in this area it also has its application.
Thus, the causes that have led to the commission of a crime, or certain rules and laws, and that is the element that explains more about what happened is sought.
- Aetiology. Oxford English Dictionary (2002). Oxford University Press.
- Longmore, M., Wilkinson, I., Baldwin, A. and Wallin, E. (2014). Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.