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Peterfreund, E. Franceschini, E. (1973). On Information, Motivation, and Meaning. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 2(1):220-262.

(1973). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 2(1):220-262

On Information, Motivation, and Meaning

Emanuel Peterfreund, M.D. and Edi Franceschini

A. Introduction

The concepts of motivation and meaning are fundamental in clinical psychoanalysis and probably in all of psychology. Indeed, one can reasonably define the psychoanalytic process as an attempt to discover the unique, personal, unconscious motivations and meanings of individual experiential phenomena— thoughts, fantasies, feelings, and behavior. This paper will focus primarily on the problem of motivation, and will deal with only a few aspects of the problem of meaning. We are interested in attempting to delineate information-processing models—albeit very crude and elementary ones—which may begin to explain some of the clinical phenomena referred to as “motivation.” We hope to begin to explain such vital aspects of motivational phenomena as repetitiveness, strength, peremptoriness, changes in motivation, the overriding aspects of some motivational phenomena, priorities, hierarchical arrangements of motivation, complex conditional relationships among motivations, and so on. We will use brief clinical vignettes to illustrate and develop our themes. It is our firm conviction that more is accomplished in the long run by attempting to explain simple, clear, clinical phenomena—elementary though these explanations may be—than by attempting global explanations of vague and poorly delineated clinical phenomena. It can therefore be expected that in this paper we will begin to answer only a few questions.

1 This paper is a supplement to a recent discussion of motivation and meaning by Peterfreund (1971).

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