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Zabarenko, L.M. (1997). Ego Defenses: Theory and Measurement edited by Hope R. Conte and Robert Plutchik New York: Wiley, 1995, xii + 340 pp., $39.95. Psa. Books, 8(3):314-317.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Books, 8(3):314-317

Ego Defenses: Theory and Measurement edited by Hope R. Conte and Robert Plutchik New York: Wiley, 1995, xii + 340 pp., $39.95

Review by:
Lucy M. Zabarenko, Ph.D.

This frankly psychometric book, No. 10 in the Einstein Psychiatry Publication series, is not a volume I expected to hold my interest, but it contained some agreeable surprises.

The editors point out at once (p. ix) that, although the psychoanalytic concept of defense has enjoyed wide acceptance by mental health professionals, definitions vary and substantial murk accrues on such issues as how and why defenses operate—considerable disadvantages for attempts at measurement.

The book is accessible, well organized, thoroughly indexed, and bifurcated into a first section on theory and a second, almost two-thirds of the material, on measurement. Sometimes small graces are the most eloquent testimony of quality. For example, the fact that Jane Loevinger's work is so often cited (pp. 97, 137, 199, 219, 261) says volumes about the contributors. In addition, psychoanalytic readers with interests in research will recognize some familiar authorities, but there are contributors from Canada, Israel, and Einstein as well.

A trio of articles in Section 1 is especially attractive: One is Mardi Horowitz and Charles Stinson's crisp review of their Control Process Theory. A second, Hartvig Dahl's “An Information Feedback Theory of Emotions and Defenses,” is so charmingly written it won't lose a single reader—a considerable achievement for an essay that proposes a coherent theory embracing motivation, emotions, and defenses. Andrew Safyer and Stuart Hauser's incisive presentation of empirical approaches to a developmental view of defenses gleams with a rare combination of precision, fair-mindedness, and conceptual sophistication. All three pieces would enhance reading lists in analytic institute courses, not least those in general theory, research, or any enterprise designed to prod critical thinking.

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