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Anthony, E.J. (1961). Panel Reports—Learning Difficulties in Childhood. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 9:124-134.

(1961). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 9:124-134

Panel Reports—Learning Difficulties in Childhood

E. James Anthony, M.D.

In opening the session, Irene Josselyn referred to the title of the panel as "all-encompassing" and wondered what limitations she should impose on the deliberations. She concluded that since learning and difficulties both had infinite ramifications within the process of psychological growth, there was nothing that could really be done about it (the discussion was, at least, confined to the period of childhood).

Josselyn approached learning in its widest connotation, tracing it from its earliest condition or sensorimotor forms. She next asked the pertinent question as to whether the stimulus-tension-discharge model of psychoanalysis had any part to play in learning theory. It would be theoretically parsimonious to be able to include both emotional and cognitive aspects within a single theory of dynamic adaptation. She seemed generally concerned that we should keep our feet firmly on biological ground and that we should do our thinking against the background of such fundamental physical data as the corticalsubcortical systems, nervous system maturation, and experimental observations of early neonatal behavior. (This served a sobering purpose, since learning is a theme that can quite easily take flight into the higher realms of epistemology, although I myself see no great disadvantage in this; in fact, I look forward to the day when we can establish a dynamic, genetic epistemology, demonstrating the growth of knowledge both at the preconscious and the conscious levels and the feeding by unconscious sources.) Fortunately, the maturation versus learning problem did not raise its controversial head, although this is the year in which Gesell's eightieth birthday is being celebrated, and without this to complicate matters, the panel was able to cover a large section of the ambitious intention to survey the existent literature and then to consider the clinical problems raised by learning difficulties at different stages of development. Upon a biological substratum, Josselyn laid a basic psychological layer—the multiphasic structure of memory, recall, and of the "automatic utilization of prelearned material" which was at the core, she felt, of the learning experience.

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