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Koff, R.H. (1961). A Definition of Identification: A Review of the Literature. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 42:362-370.

(1961). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 42:362-370

A Definition of Identification: A Review of the Literature

Robert H. Koff

I would like to make a prefatory comment about this paper. It is the result of an attempt to understand the concept of identification by means of a search through the literature on this subject.

I could never find in one place all the material which was relevant. Finally, it became apparent that I should have to do the consolidation and organization myself, even if it meant presuming to understand the complexities of metapsychology, which rightfully is the prerogative of the elder statesmen of a society.

The great English mathematician and satirical writer, Lewis Carroll, once wrote, 'when I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less'.

The word 'identification' is used in psycho-analytic literature in a similar way—each author uses it to mean what he chooses, neither more nor less, which is a disconcerting experience for the reader. One of the ways science operates is to define its language precisely, so that each word has its own special meaning derived from the word itself, not the intent of the user. The purpose of this paper is to present a scientific definition of the word 'identification'.

Keeping this purpose in mind, I shall present in some detail full quotations from the original papers on this subject, then briefly review more recent contributions, and finally present my own definition.

Before proceeding, however, I wish to point out that one source of difficulty was that I did not know the exact meaning of many of the similar words commonly used in the literature, plus the confusing tendency of the authors to use a group of these words interchangeably.

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