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Meissner, W.W. (1974). Differentiation and Integration of Learning and Identification in the Developmental Process. Ann. Psychoanal., 2:181-196.

(1974). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 2:181-196

IV Developmental Psychology

Differentiation and Integration of Learning and Identification in the Developmental Process

W. W. Meissner, S.J., M.D.

In a previous contribution, I attempted to clarify some aspects of the distinction between learning process as such and identificatory processes (Meissner, 1974). The direction of my argument was that learning processes of various types-whether conceptualized as S-R mediating processes, S-S continguity processes, means-ends configurations, or Gestalt-insight integrations-share a common set of capacities which can modify the psychic apparatus. Such learning effects are cognitive-representational or functional. They are directed to and limited to the building-up and organization of the inner world of psychic representations and/or to the increased effectiveness of the modalities of operation of certain ego functions. The functions so modified by learning processes are primarily functions associated with structures of primary autonomy—those of perception, memory, and motility. My conclusion was that the identificatory processes—particularly the processes of introjection and identification— were operating at a different level of the psychic economy, that they were subject to laws different from and independent of learning processes, and that they produced different effects: specifically, the organization of internal psychic structure which constituted the internal reality of the self—the tripartite organization of the psychic apparatus—the structures of secondary autonomy.

It is evident immediately that these respective processes—learning and identification—are not only differentiable but also intimately connected and integrated. The first area of such crucial differentiation and integration is the developmental process. I would like to focus at this juncture on some of the complex aspects of development in order to specify the respective influences of both learning and identificatory processes as well as the nature of their integration.


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