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Schlessinger, N. Gedo, J.E. Miller, J. (1967). The Scientific Style of Breuer and Freud in the Origins of Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 15:404-422.

(1967). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 15:404-422

The Scientific Style of Breuer and Freud in the Origins of Psychoanalysis

Nathan Schlessinger, M.D., John E. Gedo, M.D. and Julian Miller, M.D.


We have suggested a definition of scientific style, discussed the rationale for its study in published works, and explained differences in style demonstrable in the Studies on Hysteria.

An examination of Breuer's physiological research before and after his work in psychology demonstrates his deductive skills, technical ingenuity, perseverance, and precision in reporting results. In the Studies on Hysteria, the description of the case of Anna O. is in keeping with his physiological research. However, Breuer's withdrawal from the role of active investigator in the face of a transference-countertransference embroilment with denial and isolation of the sexual implications had fateful consequences. In the "Theoretical" chapter, there are inspired ideas, but the speculation, reasoning by analogy, and sparseness of evidence in his hypotheses represent a distinct and unique departure in Breuer's style. He appears to disclaim responsibility for his ideas, varies from caution to boldness in his assertions, and clings to his physiological theory.

Breuer, presumably removed by emotional conflict from contact with neurotic patients, was unable to utilize the inductive method adequately in arriving at interpretations, generalizations, and theories. Freud, on the other hand, persisted in observing patients and himself. The sequence of his efforts is briefly summarized. The significance of the interplay between inspiration and careful work with patients to confirm or refute ideas is stressed, emphasizing the role of scientific method as a form of reality testing and a stimulus to fruitful research.

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