BLOG – Facts or perceptions in dementia research?

In a time in which facts do not seem to matter much, the role of science and especially of social sciences is very important. Opinions are based on perceptions rather than on facts. Politicians make great efforts to influence these perceptions. And it makes sense to do so. More than hundred years ago the social scientist George Herbert Mead stated that people act upon perceptions, the meaning they attach to situations, rather than on facts. He offered researchers a theoretical framework to study these perceptions and made perceptions subject of scientific research. INTERDEM benefitted a lot from his symbolic interactionistic perspective. First, by acknowledging that perceptions matter and that scientifically studying perceptions can provide powerful knowledge to address problems and needs of people with dementia and their families. Second, by using another premise of GH Mead: people are able to change their perceptions.  Changing perceptions on dementia and on the potential to deal with dementia profoundly influenced the development and evaluation of dementia interventions. The evidence provided in our studies contradicting the dementia disaster scenario opened the eyes for the potential of people with dementia. This led INTERDEM to stimulate and carry out more research on positive outcomes and social health. Science is not just another opinion. When both facts and perceptions are subject of research they can contribute to knowledge about living well (with)out dementia.

Myrra Vernooij-Dassen, chair INTERDEM