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Kabatznick, R. Marcus, P. (1986). Psychoanalysis and Social Psychology. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 14(1):115-123.

(1986). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 14(1):115-123

Psychoanalysis and Social Psychology

Ronna Kabatznick, Ph.D. and Paul Marcus, Ph.D.

Psychoanalysis has been said to be the most comprehensive psychology of human behavior. Yet, both its critics (Rachman, 1963; Szasz, 1970) and devotees (Bergmann, 1984; Fromm, 1970) have pointed out deficits in its social psychology. Recent evidence from the experimental social psychology literature has challenged classic psychoanalytic concepts and interpretations of basic issues frequently addressed by the psychoanalytic community: whether a person lies or tells the truth, behaves violently or caringly or whether a person acts altruistically or selfishly. Three landmark experimental social psychological studies will serve as points of entry into a critical examination of traditional psychoanalytic concepts.

The authors will argue that the psychoanalytic emphasis on psychopathology has obscured the disciplines need to develop a psychology of “everyday” situational behavior that gives greater attention to contextual considerations. We will discuss some of the reasons for the lack of interdisciplinary collaboration between psychoanalysts and experimental social psychologists and will suggest why this communication gap exists. Finally, we will argue for the utilization of basic social psychological concepts to facilitate a genuine psychoanalytic social psychology.

The notion that a person's behavior is influenced by social experiences is a generally accepted premise in contemporary psychology. Eminent personality theorists including Adler, Horney, Sullivan, Fromm, and Laing among others have tried to delineate the ways in which individuals are shaped by social circumstances.

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