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Burying Freud

[ Burying Freud Homepage | Freud's Seduction Theory Homepage ]

Contributors to this website may be interested in a paper of mine which appeared in the Journal of Personality for 1994 (Vol. 62:4, December, 683-696) as part of a special issue on "Psychodynamics and Social Cognition":

Due to copyright concerns I won't post the entire article on the site, but the following abstract, plus a precis of the paper itself, should give readers of this website an indication of whether the entire paper is worth reading.

"Psychodynamics and Social Cognition: Notes on the Fusion of Psychoanalysis and Psychology"

John F. Kihlstrom

ABSTRACT Interest in linking psychoanalysis with scientific psychology waxes and wanes. In part, the difficulties have been caused by the preference of psychoanalysts for Freud's clinical theory (and its emphasis on narrative truth) as opposed to his metapsychology (with its requirement for historical truth). Even though contemporary scientific psychology evolved largely independently of psychoanalysis, the articles on object relations, transference, and defense published in this special issue show that the theory remains a source of inspiration, observations, and hypotheses.

PRÉCIS Every once in a while someone tries to connect psychoanalysis to academic psychology. This attempt is always interesting, if for no other reason than that there are so many different forms of psychoanalysis and thus so many ways to make connections. Rapaport (1959) noted that there are at least five different levels of psychoanalytic theory: neuroscientific, intrapsychic dynamics, ego psychology, structural concepts, and psychosocial views, to now which can be added object relations. Much like the medieval monks, the ego psychologists (especially) held fast against the behaviorist onslaught until psychologists were ready to study the mind again. Unfortunately, most of this work was ignored by mainstream academic psychologists.

Then, in the 1970s, just when academic psychology began to get interested in the mind again, organized psychoanalysis seemed to give up any pretense of being scientific at all. The milestone here was the distinction between the metapsychology and the clinical theory, and the evolving preference for the latter over the former. In short order, psychoanalysis was transformed from a scientific discipline, tied (at least in principle) to the natural and social sciences, to a hermeneutic discipline, tied to the arts and humanities. It is therefore not an accident that contemporary psychoanalysis finds a warmer welcome in departments of comparative literature than in departments of psychology. I argue that this shift from the metapsychology to the clinical theory was mistaken, because adherence to a natural science framework might well have kept psychoanalytic theory from wandering off into a hermeneutic wonderland.

Klein, Gill, Holt, Schafer, and others rejected Freud's metapsychology because it was reductionistic. However, the fact is that Freud's metapsychology, as summarized by Rapaport (1959, 1960) in terms of 10 points of view -- empirical, Gestalt, organismic, genetic, topographic, dynamic, economic, structural, adaptive, and psychosocial -- is a pure psychology, and not at all reductionistic -- that is to say, it doesn't try to reduce the psychological level of explanation to the physical level. Stated in terms of these broad general themes, psychoanalytic theory doesn't look much different from other psychological theories of mind and behavior.

Of course, psychoanalysis isn't testable at the level of Rapaport's 10 points of view. But it is testable in principle, because as Hilgard (1952, 1968) noted, nestled under the metapsychological propositions is a hierarchy of general, specific, and empirical propositions which are increasingly amenable to testing by means of conventional scientific procedures. So, for example, we can unpack the dynamic point of view ("The ultimate determiners of all behavior are the drives" -- Rapaport) into the general proposition that the important motives for behavior are sexual and aggressive in nature; at the specific level, that children harbor erotic feelings toward the parent of the opposite sex and hostile feelings toward then parent of the same sex; and at the empirical level, that young boys regard their fathers as rivals for their mothers' affections.

It is at these general, specific, and empirical levels that psychoanalysis has been tested in clinical, observational, and experimental studies. It is at these levels that psychoanalytic theory has fared badly -- as we have known at least since Sears (1947). But the fact that psychoanalytic theory has so far proved to be wrong in every detail doesn't mean that the metapsychology necessarily must be rejected as well.

John F. Kihlstrom, Professor
Editor, Psychological Science
Department of Psychology, Yale University
P.O. Box 208205, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8205
Department Address: Kirtland Hall, 2 Hillhouse Avenue
Telephone (203) 432-2596 Facsimile (203) 432-7172
Wed, 22nd May, 1996.

 


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© Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

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Burying Freud

[ Burying Freud Homepage | Freud's Seduction Theory Homepage ]

Contributors to this website may be interested in a paper of mine which appeared in the Journal of Personality for 1994 (Vol. 62:4, December, 683-696) as part of a special issue on "Psychodynamics and Social Cognition":

Due to copyright concerns I won't post the entire article on the site, but the following abstract, plus a precis of the paper itself, should give readers of this website an indication of whether the entire paper is worth reading.

"Psychodynamics and Social Cognition: Notes on the Fusion of Psychoanalysis and Psychology"

John F. Kihlstrom

ABSTRACT Interest in linking psychoanalysis with scientific psychology waxes and wanes. In part, the difficulties have been caused by the preference of psychoanalysts for Freud's clinical theory (and its emphasis on narrative truth) as opposed to his metapsychology (with its requirement for historical truth). Even though contemporary scientific psychology evolved largely independently of psychoanalysis, the articles on object relations, transference, and defense published in this special issue show that the theory remains a source of inspiration, observations, and hypotheses.

PRÉCIS Every once in a while someone tries to connect psychoanalysis to academic psychology. This attempt is always interesting, if for no other reason than that there are so many different forms of psychoanalysis and thus so many ways to make connections. Rapaport (1959) noted that there are at least five different levels of psychoanalytic theory: neuroscientific, intrapsychic dynamics, ego psychology, structural concepts, and psychosocial views, to now which can be added object relations. Much like the medieval monks, the ego psychologists (especially) held fast against the behaviorist onslaught until psychologists were ready to study the mind again. Unfortunately, most of this work was ignored by mainstream academic psychologists.

Then, in the 1970s, just when academic psychology began to get interested in the mind again, organized psychoanalysis seemed to give up any pretense of being scientific at all. The milestone here was the distinction between the metapsychology and the clinical theory, and the evolving preference for the latter over the former. In short order, psychoanalysis was transformed from a scientific discipline, tied (at least in principle) to the natural and social sciences, to a hermeneutic discipline, tied to the arts and humanities. It is therefore not an accident that contemporary psychoanalysis finds a warmer welcome in departments of comparative literature than in departments of psychology. I argue that this shift from the metapsychology to the clinical theory was mistaken, because adherence to a natural science framework might well have kept psychoanalytic theory from wandering off into a hermeneutic wonderland.

Klein, Gill, Holt, Schafer, and others rejected Freud's metapsychology because it was reductionistic. However, the fact is that Freud's metapsychology, as summarized by Rapaport (1959, 1960) in terms of 10 points of view -- empirical, Gestalt, organismic, genetic, topographic, dynamic, economic, structural, adaptive, and psychosocial -- is a pure psychology, and not at all reductionistic -- that is to say, it doesn't try to reduce the psychological level of explanation to the physical level. Stated in terms of these broad general themes, psychoanalytic theory doesn't look much different from other psychological theories of mind and behavior.

Of course, psychoanalysis isn't testable at the level of Rapaport's 10 points of view. But it is testable in principle, because as Hilgard (1952, 1968) noted, nestled under the metapsychological propositions is a hierarchy of general, specific, and empirical propositions which are increasingly amenable to testing by means of conventional scientific procedures. So, for example, we can unpack the dynamic point of view ("The ultimate determiners of all behavior are the drives" -- Rapaport) into the general proposition that the important motives for behavior are sexual and aggressive in nature; at the specific level, that children harbor erotic feelings toward the parent of the opposite sex and hostile feelings toward then parent of the same sex; and at the empirical level, that young boys regard their fathers as rivals for their mothers' affections.

It is at these general, specific, and empirical levels that psychoanalysis has been tested in clinical, observational, and experimental studies. It is at these levels that psychoanalytic theory has fared badly -- as we have known at least since Sears (1947). But the fact that psychoanalytic theory has so far proved to be wrong in every detail doesn't mean that the metapsychology necessarily must be rejected as well.

John F. Kihlstrom, Professor
Editor, Psychological Science
Department of Psychology, Yale University
P.O. Box 208205, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8205
Department Address: Kirtland Hall, 2 Hillhouse Avenue
Telephone (203) 432-2596 Facsimile (203) 432-7172
Wed, 22nd May, 1996.

 


human-nature.com
© Ian Pitchford and Robert M. Young - Last updated: 28 May, 2005 02:29 PM

US -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.com logo

UK -
 Search:
Keywords:  

Amazon.co.uk logo

 | Human Nature | The Human Nature Daily Review | Psychiatry Research Online |