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Wolfson, A. (1985). Empirical Studies of Psychoanalytical Theories, Volume 1. Edited by Joseph Masling. New Jersey: The Analytic Press. 1983. Pp. 298.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 12:497-500.
(1985). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 12:497-500
Empirical Studies of Psychoanalytical Theories, Volume 1. Edited by Joseph Masling. New Jersey: The Analytic Press. 1983. Pp. 298.
Review by: Abby Wolfson
The title of editor Joseph Masling's Volume 1, The Empirical Studies of Psychoanalytical Theories immediately reminds us of the many and heated discussions about the nature of psychoanalytic knowledge and its verification. Many of us like to think that psychoanalysis is now widely accepted as a hermeneutic discipline which uses a new method for obtaining knowledge. However, both within and without our field, psychoanalysis is still charged to demonstrate that its empirically derived concepts, gleaned from clinical experience or observation, can be conceptualized, measured, and meaningfully interpreted within a rigorous experimental framework.
In this volume, six of the seven chapters are reports of experimental studies conducted by some of the best known American psychoanalytic researchers: Hartley & Strup, Dahl, Silverman, Sackeim, Blatt & Lerner, and Greenberg & Fisher. A seventh chapter by another well-known researcher, Eagle, is a more theoretical paper based upon the empirical findings from physiological, experimental, anecdotal and sociological sources. These researchers are well-known in the psychoanalytic community for their theoretical contributions and are also respected in academic circles. They are unquestionably valuable colleagues for practising analysts as they enliven the field of psychoanalysis through their argument, challenge, scepticism and thoughtfulness.
The purpose of this book, as stated by Dr Masling, is to 'present comprehensive, detailed descriptions of empirical testing of psychoanalytic hypotheses' and to do this in a manner which does not 'wrench and twist psychoanalytic theory into unrecognizable shape' (pp. ix-x). To paraphrase Masling, the task of the psychoanalytic researcher is to bring sophisticated research expertise to bear upon important psychoanalytic issues. This goal is well met throughout the chapters of the current volume.
Hartvig Dahl's work provides a fine example of the reliability and validity of sophisticated experimental methods in capturing both macro and micro elements of the unfolding psychoanalytic process. This chapter contains a summary of many psychoanalytic studies, all published elsewhere, loosely grouped around the concept of wishes.
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