I'm writing about natural causal chains and would like to use 'pathology,' but that word appears to only include diseases or abnormalities. For example, when someone is attracted to something, there is a series of biological and psychological causes-and-effects that typically occur, with possible branches depending on specific circumstances. I would like to say, "the pathology of attraction is typically..." for not only what's already happened, but also what's likely to happen next given specific circumstances and choices made.

The reason for wanting to use the word, pathology, is because I study neural pathways (involuntary), and figurative paths people can choose (voluntary) toward living a better life for them and the people the care about most. And as a counselor, understanding how someone comes to believe and value things follows a specific path (past) that causes people to do what they do (future/involuntary) unless they consciously choose otherwise (voluntary). 'Ology' is the study of, and 'path' is literally what happens inside someone's head, and builds the content (understanding, beliefs, values, etc.) that runs their life.

I'm not stuck on pathology, but I'd prefer something better than, "the causal chain...."

  • "sequence" or "sequential"? Nov 16, 2020 at 23:39
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    Note that you are wrong about the meaning of "path". It actually comes from the Greek pathos meaning "suffering". etymonline.com/search?q=pathology - If you use the word "pathology" incorrectly, you will certainly cause confusion! Nov 16, 2020 at 23:42
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    Webster defines path: : COURSE, ROUTE, the path of a meteor. b: a way of life, conduct, or thought. decided on a career path in medicine. This is clearly the context in which I am using path. Also, suffering is a psychological construct that has a causal chain the extends from beliefs to reactions, exactly what I'm trying to find a good word for...but the same is true for happiness, sadness, anger, etc., as well as biological, social, environmental, etc. causal chains. Nov 16, 2020 at 23:51
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    @Christopher, you would need to write "path-ology" to distinguish it from the standard word if you want this meaning. It is not quite as good a word as Terry Pratchett's "headology"
    – Peter
    Nov 16, 2020 at 23:56
  • If you want to use a word in a non-standard way, that is your privilege. However it will reduce your credibility with anyone who has medical knowledge (or indeed a good knowledge of English). Nov 17, 2020 at 0:21

3 Answers 3


I favour ontogeny


Or ontogeny = the entire sequence of events involved in the development of an individual organism

Collins dictionary

  • thanks for that word @anton...a new one for me! But I'm afraid it reaches too far for my use, since it includes the whole path of a single organism, from conception to death. Plus, I'm looking for a word that describes any causal chain, not just biological, A word like 'story' is much closer but less clinical, and does not emphasize a path with distinct causal links and branches that are dependent on conditions or free will. Nov 17, 2020 at 20:13

"Psychodynamics, also known as psychodynamic psychology, in its broadest sense, is an approach to psychology that emphasizes systematic study of the psychological forces that underlie human behavior, feelings, and emotions and how they might relate to early experience."


  • this quote from your source nails it: "In general, psychodynamics is the study of the interrelationship of various parts of the mind, personality, or psyche as they relate to mental, emotional, or motivational forces especially at the unconscious level. The mental forces involved in psychodynamics are often divided into two parts: (a) the interaction of the emotional and motivational forces that affect behavior and mental states, especially on a subconscious level; (b) inner forces affecting behavior: the study of the emotional and motivational forces that affect behavior.... Nov 17, 2020 at 19:54
  • @ rem - however, how can that word be 'comfortably' used in a sentence? For example: "the pathology of what people commonly call emotions clearly shows they are not emotions, they are conscious awareness of a wide range of sensory sources." Replacing 'pathology' with psychodynamics seems awkward...but is that correct? Nov 17, 2020 at 19:58
  • Speaking of the senses, "the phenomenology of what people commonly call emotions clearly shows they are not emotions, but instead a conscious awareness of a wide range of sensory sources." Phenomenology, basically, theorizes that we are all just "animals", in the sense that, supposedly, all the emotions and other "theater of the mind" we "think" we experience doesn't really and actually exist beyond ourselves. P.S. I can identify with the ways and the degrees to which you try to sort things out. Something that isn't always a popular pursuit. Nov 17, 2020 at 20:44
  • I point out the distinction between phenomenal and ontological reality throughout my book...I agree, it is very important. But phenomenology is not a process, it is classification or frame of recognition and understanding. It is true that human cognition is a phenomenal process, but I'm looking for a word/term that describes all causal chains, not just phenomenal causal chains...like driving a car, precipitation or banking transactions. Each has a common path, common exceptions, and more consequential ones that deserve greater attention/prevention...depending on their 'pathology.' Nov 18, 2020 at 2:31
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    Just to point out that the opposite(?) of phenomenon is noumenon. Anyway, I wanted to try to answer your question to try to end off here where I began, with the franchisor question. This place was a fun diversion, for a while. Learned a bit, in other ways. Hope you find the word you are looking for. Nov 18, 2020 at 10:30

Thanks for the question, interesting search. :)


"The autobiographical memory pathway/sequence in attraction typically...." "The biopsychosocial pathway/approach/continuum in attraction typically..."


Autobiographical memory is a uniquely human system that integrates memories of past experiences into an overarching life narrative.


What is Autobiographical Memory? Alan Baddeley MRC Applied Psyehology Unit, Cambridge, England

I would like to suggest that the term 'autobiographical memory' is used in at least three different ways. (1) As a specific memory system with a separable neurological base, (2) As a term describing knowledge and schemata that form the memorial basis of the self, and (3) As the study of the processes and mechanisms whereby subjects recall and recognise the events they have experienced in their lives.

  • i love the term, it nails my question regarding one way memories are formed. But, that's the problem, it only addresses memory. I'm looking for a term that not only includes psychological causal chains (CCs), I'm looking for a word that describes all CCs and the possible directions given specific conditions (natural things) or the freedom of choice (sentient beings). A CC can be used for one path...and causal map could be used with lots of possible paths (though I believe that would be a new term), but they do not highlight the 'effects,' just as important as the causes. Nov 17, 2020 at 20:06

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