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Bernfeld, S. (1943). Effects of Frustration: Symposium at the Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association at Atlantic City, April 5, 1940. Psychological Rev., XLVIII, 1941, pp. 337–366.. Psychoanal Q., 12:604-606.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Effects of Frustration: Symposium at the Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association at Atlantic City, April 5, 1940. Psychological Rev., XLVIII, 1941, pp. 337–366.

(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:604-606

Effects of Frustration: Symposium at the Meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association at Atlantic City, April 5, 1940. Psychological Rev., XLVIII, 1941, pp. 337–366.

Siegfried Bernfeld

1. Neal E. Miller (with the collaboration of Robert R. Sears, O. H. Mowrer, Leonard W. Doob and John Dollard).

The Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis.

The Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis referred to in this symposium was presented 1939 in the book of J. Dollar, L. W. Doob, N. E. Miller, O. H. Mowrer and R. R. Sears: Frustration and Aggression. One of the statements reads, 'that the occurrence of aggression always presupposes the existence of frustration and contrariwise, that the existence of frustration always leads to some form of aggression'. Miller rephrases the second half of this statement as, 'frustration produces instigations to a number of different types of responses, one of which is an instigation to some form of aggression'. The instigation does not imply the actual occurrence of aggression, which may be inhibited.

2. Robert R. Sears.

Non-Aggressive Reactions to Frustration.

Sears briefly surveys various nonaggressive reactions, analyzing them in terms of instigation, instrumental acts, goal responses. He stresses two problems of immediate significance from a research standpoint: (1) the problem of discovering the total repertory of frustration reactions available to any individual. (2) The determination of the specific factors which cause one kind of frustration reaction rather than another. 'Surprisingly few hypotheses have been suggested by psychoanalytic researchers.' The little material produced by experimenters is reviewed.

3. Saul Rosenzweig.

Need-Persistive and Ego-Defensive Reactions to Frustration, as Demonstrated by an Experiment on Repression.

The author distinguishes two types of reactions to frustration. The first—'need-persistive'—serves to fulfil the frustrated need in spite of momentary obstructions. The other—'ego-defensive'—serves to protect the integration of the personality if and when the latter is threatened by the frustratung situation. The relationship of this distinction to psychoanalytic concepts is obvious and is clearly discussed by the author. The difference between the two types is demonstrated by reporting an experiment designed to investigate the psychoanalytic concept of repression. Two groups of subjects were given a series of jig-saw picture-puzzles to solve. To one of the groups the puzzles were presented informally, for the ostensible purpose of helping the experimenter classify the problems for future use. The other group was given the same puzzles to solve but as an intelligence test. In both cases the subjects were permitted to finish half of the puzzles but were stopped midway in each of the remaining half. They were then asked to name the

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puzzles which they had attempted. The hypothesis of the experiment was that under the informal conditions the unfinished tasks would be better recalled than the finished ones, because 'need-persistive' reactions alone would be operative and would make for the easier recall of tasks with which undischarged tension was associated. Conversely, subjects in the formal group were expected to recall finished tasks more frequently, the assumption being that with the arousal of pride and accompanying 'ego-defense' in case of failure, the individual's needs for inviolacy would take precedence over the task tension making for the recall of the unfinished tasks. The experimental results substantiated the hypothesis.

4. Gregory Bateson.

The Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis and Culture.

The author considers the hypothesis as essentially a statement about series of cultural behaviors in interpersonal contents. He tries it out by applying it to two strange cultures. (1) The Iatmul of New Guinea: the thesis fits them perfectly, but the Iatmul have added one wrinkle: they have invested aggression with pleasure. (2) The Balinese: the thesis can be applied by and large to the children although it cannot clearly, at least not often, be applied to the adults. They do not see life, as we ourselves and the Iatmul do, as divided into sequences of neutral or unpleasant conative acts ending in satisfactions. Thus the contexts in which we might look for the thesis can hardly be said to occur in Bali. How are the children modified so as to render them 'unfrustratable'? In the Balinese mother-child relationship the child is driven not to expect or look for climax in his acts but to take his pleasure in preliminary steps with no defined goal.

5. David M. Levy.

The Hostile Act.

Levy objects to the generalization that aggression arises as a result of any frustrating experiences. He refers to experiments concerning the sucking behavior of dogs and the pecking behavior of chickens, where no evidence appeared that frustration increases aggression. In regard to sibling rivalry the aggression response is typical, although not without exception. The hostile act against the baby, represented by a doll, was studied in an experiment with one hundred children, aged three to thirteen. The hostile act is conceived of as a social process, a dynamic unit of behavior, with various influences brought to bear upon it in every phase. In the completed primitive performance of the hostile act the child attacks the baby doll and destroys it by biting it, tearing it with his fingers or crushing it with his feet. Deviations from this pattern can be described in terms of inhibition, qualifying the phase of the act at which the inhibition occurs. For instance, inhibition before the impulse is felt: repression, superego injunction; when the impulse is felt: blocking; when the act goes into execution: displacement, reduction in gesture, incompletion; when the act is ended: self-justification, self-retaliatory behavior. From this result Levy derives a

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reconciliation of Freud's two theories of anxiety (Chapter IV of The Problem of Anxiety). 'In the … phobias, (the anxiety) emanates when the impulse to act occurs. In the situation of frustrated sexual behavior the inhibition occurs at the close of the act… Hence anxiety may arise during the act at any phase and the rule that it arises from the inhibition … may still be maintained.'

6. George W. Hartmann.

Frustration Phenomena in the Social and Political Sphere.

More consideration ought to be given to the manner in which different cultures make provision for accommodating themselves to the postfrustration behavior of 'balked' individuals or for adjusting these persons to their unsatisfying state.

7. A. H. Maslow.

Deprivation, Threat and Frustration.

Maslow stresses the important distinction between a deprivation which is unimportant to the organism (easily substituted for, with few serious after-effects) and a deprivation which is a threat to the personality, that is, to the life goals of the individual, to his defensive system, to his self-esteem or to his feeling of security. Only a threatening deprivation has the multitude of effects (usually undesirable) which are commonly attributed to frustration in general.

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Article Citation

Bernfeld, S. (1943). Effects of Frustration. Psychoanal. Q., 12:604-606

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