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Ansbacher, H.L. (1982). Robert S. Woodworth, Schafer's "Action Language, " and Alfred Adler. Contemp. Psychoanal., 18:112-118.
   

(1982). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 18:112-118

Robert S. Woodworth, Schafer's "Action Language, " and Alfred Adler

Heinz L. Ansbacher, Ph.D.

ROY SCHAFER'S (1976) CALL FOR a new language for psychoanalysis, which he has named "action language, " represents a great step forward. Aimed at the reifications, classifications and anthropomorphisms of Freud's metapsychology, action language represents a conceptualization of man as an active, unified, purposive, responsible individual.

Schafer's fundamental rule is:

We shall regard each psychological process … as some kind of activity, henceforth to be called action, and shall designate each action by an active verb … and by an adverb (or adverbial locution), when applicable, stating the mode of this action. Adopting this rule … we shall not use nouns and adjectives to refer to psychological processes. … This … is what it takes really to discontinue physicochemical and biological modes of psychological thinking (p. 9).

Woodworth's Principle

This brings back to memory a similar call nearly fifty years earlier by Robert S. Woodworth, 1869–1962, addressed to psychology in general. Woodworth was considered the dean of American psychology as professor of psychology at Columbia University where he taught for over fifty years. A profound, soft-spoken scholar, author of important books on experimental psychology, schools of psychology and dynamic psychology among others, his orientation was one of functional psychology with a psychology of motivation added. His introductory Psychology was virtually the standard text at the time, going through five editions between 1921 and 1947. "For exactly 25 years it outsold all other texts so greatly as to be beyond competition" (Boring 1950pp. 564–565).

Woodworth

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