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Sotirova-Kohli, M. Rosen, D.H. Smith, S.M. Henderson, P. Taki-Reece, S. (2011). Empirical Study of Kanji as Archetypal Images: Understanding the Collective Unconscious as Part of the Japanese Language. J. Anal. Psychol., 56(1):109-131.

(2011). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 56(1):109-131


Empirical Study of Kanji as Archetypal Images: Understanding the Collective Unconscious as Part of the Japanese Language

Milena Sotirova-Kohli, David H. Rosen, M.D., Steven M. Smith, Ph.D., Patti Henderson, M.S. and Sachiko Taki-Reece, ED.D.

Chinese characters originated as a semiotic system independent from spoken language and in the Japanese language they function non-phonetically with speakers exhibiting right-hemispheric advantage in their processing. We tested the hypothesis that Chinese characters are archetypal images and therefore part of our collective unconscious memory.

Our study builds on the first empirical study of archetypal memory of Rosen et al. (1991) which demonstrated that archetypal symbols presented matched with their correct meaning were better learned and recalled. In a series of three experiments we used 40 Chinese characters instead of the archetypal symbols used by Rosen, et al. (1991). The results provided empirical evidence that Chinese characters matched with their correct meaning were significantly better recalled than the ones that were mismatched. Thus, we demonstrated that there appears to be unconscious knowledge of the meaning of the Chinese characters which was triggered as a result of priming when the characters were correctly matched with their meaning. On this basis, we suggest that Chinese characters exhibit the same cognitive qualities as archetypal symbols. Thus, in the Japanese language an archetypal image is integrated non-phonetically into the system of language and signifies the concept independent from the phonetic signifier and is equal to it.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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