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Keiser, S. (1958). Disturbances in Abstract Thinking and Body-Image Formation. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 6:628-652.

(1958). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 6:628-652

Disturbances in Abstract Thinking and Body-Image Formation

Sylvan Keiser, M.D.

A real or fancied impairment of the ability to learn, to know, to do abstract reasoning or to correlate facts has been observed many times as a transitory or minor symptom during the course of an analysis. An opportunity to study this problem as a major complaint was presented to me by several patients during their analyses. It was necessary to evaluate the degree of objectivity in this complaint.

To support the contention that they had a real handicap, these patients argued that pure memorizing, without any understanding of principles or theory, had been responsible for their distinguished scholastic records. In addition to brutally arduous application to memorizing, they employed complicated techniques in preparing for examinations. Later, they learned that reasoning and understanding made it possible to learn with much less effort. They insisted that they had not utilized any principles of association, and that all the facts they had studied simply melted away after the completion of examinations. To substantiate their claims further, they described themselves as unable ever to recall data spontaneously when called upon to initiate a discussion. The sight of a question on the examination would stimulate a "reflex response" in their "mechanical brains" and the answers would be given without thought. Even the most theoretical of concepts were somehow reduced to concrete forms, whose details could be mentally catalogued and filed as a series of facts.

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