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Kohut, H. (1960). The Psychology of Imagination. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 8:159-166.

(1960). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 8:159-166

The Psychology of Imagination

Heinz Kohut, M.D.

David Beres, who presented the first paper, pointed directly to the importance of the panel's subject matter, the psychology of imagination, by stating that "the products of imagination are the data of the psychoanalyst's work. The symbol, the fantasy, the thought, the dream, " he said, "are to the psychoanalyst what the tracing of the electrocardiograph is to the cardiologist or the microscopic specimen to the pathologist." Beres defined imagination as "the capacity to form a mental representation of an absent object" and delineated it from those similar mental functions which occur in higher animals who "… can apprehend and respond to configurations and spatial relationships … in a concrete … fashion … in relation to direct, immediate, sensory stimulation." He added the important fact that precursors of imagination, which resemble the direct responses observed in higher animals, occur also in man during early infancy and with organic brain disease. He stressed, however, that there is a continuum of mental processes: "… from the ideational processes of the human infant and of infrahuman species, capable of perception, memory, learning and motor response, to the human thought processes which include abstract concept formation, language, and imagery." Similarly, he postulated a continuum in the progressive series of the contents of thought "from image, to idea, to abstract concepts." With Glover he assumed that "at the most primitive level there is immediate discharge without thought … a presymbolic phase of mental functioning" and, therefore, he pointed up the distinction between the presymbolic phase of mentation on the one hand, and the continuum of primary and secondary processes on the other.

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