For the second time in a year, I've run across the use of the word "bracket" as a verb in the social sciences, to refer (I infer) to a rhetorical maneuver. I have no idea what is meant by it, and the dictionaries I've checked haven't helped; this may be too recent or too field-specific a usage.


This from a PowerPoint I found on the internet:

Preparing for button-pushing (bracket your values)

It's one of several bullet items on the list, and no useful context.

This is from an academic paper (Warren and Cottone, 2015, Detrimental association: An epistemological connection of dysfunction within and across paradigms, Journal of Mental Health Counseling) in the field of counseling, which can be considered a sub-branch of clinical psychology or of psychiatry:

DAs occur when individuals or systems create associations between psychological (internal) and sociological (bracketed external) variables that lead to poor mental health and well-being. These connections stem from the unintended, yet natural, matching or pairing of internal (self) and bracketed external ([environment]) variables found to encompass an individual or system. Thoughts, behaviors, self, and communication are types of internal variables. They emerge from innate disposition and are deeply ingrained in the individual or system. On the other hand, bracketed external variables, such as environment, power, or absolute truths, are contextually perceived; in other words, they constitute a construction of thoughts and experiences based on the external world.


At the philosophical level, all DAs are reduced to a single pair of distinct variables. True DAs comprise an internal variable and a bracketed external variable. Regardless of associations found at the practical or theoretical levels, all DAs appear to converge within the self (internal) and the [environment] (bracketed external).


While the psychological and systemic relational paradigms offer tradi- tional theories regularly considered in practice, there is continued momentum toward implementation of theories embedded in social constructivism. The social constructivism paradigm asserts that individuals, families, and society construct understanding of experience through a consensualizing process (Cottone, 2012). This process or understanding of shared experience occurs through the language used to create narratives of situations and life (Gergen, 2009). Society and subsets of society, such as the individual and religion, create knowledge and construct “bracketed absolute truths” (Cottone, 2012). Shared consensual knowledge or bracketed absolute truths remain relatively constant until they are challenged by a competing framework and a new understand- ing of experience emerges (Gergen, 2009). “Absolute truths” are specific to situations that occur in life and often evolve over time. These consensualities compel individuals to behave in ways that members of their community find acceptable. When consensualities from one facet of life are generalized to other facets, conflict typically arises (Gergen, 2009). And when consensualities conflict, DAs are common. The link between a bracketed absolute truth from one aspect of life and an individual’s behavior will require severing or modification through other relational connections, such as counseling, when competing consensualities arise.


In social constructivism, there is an intimate association between language, relationships, and experiences. Several notable counseling theories, such as solution-focused therapy (Berg, 1993, de Shazer, 1985) and narrative therapy (White, 2007; White & Epston, 1990), fall within this paradigm and are useful in negotiating DAs between opposing sets of absolute bracketed truths.

I don't even know if these are the same usage.

What does this sense of "to bracket" mean?

And from what field or source does it originate? Is this just an emergent usage, or is there an authoritative coinage as a term-of-art asserted somewhere?

1 Answer 1


Both uses of the word bracket are very non-standard.

In the first, the expression "bracket your values" seems to mean to not allow personal values to affect professional behaviour (see here ).

The Warren and Cottone example seems to be the authors' own definition of the word bracketed to refer to a subset of society. I.e. "bracketed external variables" derive from a limited group of like-minded people rather than society as a whole.

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