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Seganti, A. Carnevale, G. Mucelli, R. Solano, L. Target, M. (2000). From Sixty-Two Interviews On ‘The Worst And The Best Episode Of Your Life’ Relationships Between Internal Working Models And A Grammatical Scale Of Subject-Object Affective Connections. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 81(3):529-551.

(2000). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 81(3):529-551

From Sixty-Two Interviews On ‘The Worst And The Best Episode Of Your Life’ Relationships Between Internal Working Models And A Grammatical Scale Of Subject-Object Affective Connections

Andrea Seganti, Giorgio Carnevale, Roberto Mucelli, Luigi Solano and Mary Target

The authors address the issue of inferring unconscious internal working models of interaction through language. After reviewing Main's seminal work of linguistic assessment through the ‘adult attachment interview’, they stress the idea of adults' internal working models (IWMs) as information-processing devices, which give moment-to-moment sensory orientation in the face of any past or present, animate or inanimate object. They propose that a selective perception of the objects could match expected with actual influence of objects on the subject's self, through very simple ‘parallel-processed’ categories of internal objects. They further hypothesise that the isomorphism between internal working models of interaction and grammatical connections between subjects and objects within a clause could be a key to tracking positive and negative images of self and other during discourse. An experiment is reported applying the authors' ‘scale of subject/object affective connection’ to the narratives of sixty-two subjects asked to write about the ‘worst’ and ‘best’ episodes of their lives. Participants had previously been classified using Hazan & Shaver's self-reported ‘attachment types’ (avoidant, anxious and secure) categorising individuals' general expectations in relation to others. The findings were that the subject/object distribution of positive and negative experience, through verbs defined for this purpose as either performative or state verbs, did significantly differ between groups. In addition, different groups tended, during the best episodes, significantly to invert the trend of positive/negative subject/object distribution shown during the worst episode. Results are discussed in terms of a psychoanalytic theory of improvement through co-operative elaboration of negative relational issues.

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