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Ployé, P.M. (1973). Does Prenatal Mental Life Exist?. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 54:241-246.

(1973). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 54:241-246

Does Prenatal Mental Life Exist?

P. M. Ployé

Only the outcome of our experiment can show whether we are right (Freud, 1933)

For many years now, experimental medicine and embryology have demonstrated the capacity of the animal and even the human foetus for reacting and being conditioned to stimuli. In the psychological field, a number of psychiatrists and psychoanalysts have from time to time declared their interest in the possible existence of prenatal mental life and its possible influence on later development.

Amongst the psychoanalysts, and to quote only a few, Melanie Klein suggested in one of her later works that the prenatal state might not always be as 'undisturbed' as one usually imagines it to be, and that 'unpleasant' experiences during that stage might precede and 'foreshadow' later 'bad' experiences during or after birth (Klein, 1957pp. 3–4). Arnaldo Rascovsky and his collaborators have written many works devoted to the study of 'foetal psychism' (Rascovsky, 1960). Karl Menninger, speculating on observations made by G. Devereux in the field of anthropology, outlined a hypothesis according to which conflict, ambivalence and a struggle between the life and death instincts might take place as far back as the prenatal stage (Menninger, 1939pp. 440–1). Money-Kyrle has said he could not 'exclude the possibility … that we may eventually be able to reconstruct the psychology of the developing foetus' (Money-Kyrle, 1968p. 692, n.3). Winnicott described what he believed to be a regression to the intrauterine state during the analytic hour (Winnicott, 1949p.

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