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Grand, S. Freedman, N. Steingart, I. (1973). A Study of the Representation of Objects in Schizophrenia. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 21:399-434.

(1973). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 21:399-434

A Study of the Representation of Objects in Schizophrenia

Stanley Grand, Ph.D., Norbert Freedman, Ph.D. and Irving Steingart, Ph.D.


A recent trend evident in the literature on schizophrenia appears to focus upon variations in the qualities of maladaptive object related behavior evident in the interpersonal functioning of schizophrenic patients. These qualities of interpersonal behavior have relevance for the understanding of intrapsychic factors in mental functioning, particularly when seen from the structural and adaptive metapsychological points of view.

In the present paper, two groups of chronic schizophrenic patients exhibiting widely differing, although highly stable forms of maladaptive object-related behavior (i.e., Isolation vs. Belligerence) were given psychological tests and seen in a clinical interview which was video-recorded. Their test- and interview behavior were studied with regard to their relative capacities to represent objects, that is, to transform experience into a verbal form. Three measures utilized in this study were the Stroop Color-Word task, a system of coding language which provides a measure of linguistic complexity in sentence construction; and a system of coding kinetic behavior which provides a measure of communicative and noncommunicative speech-related gestures.

Our results indicated that Isolated patients performed significantly more poorly on one of the linguistic encoding tasks (simple color-naming); utilized significantly more simple forms of language construction; and significantly more gestures that were

unrelated to speech and that appear to be related to linguistic encoding difficulties. By contrast, the Belligerent patients exhibited more conflict on the interference portion of the linguistic encoding task; used syntactically more complex forms of language construction; utilized gestures that were highly integrated with the speech flow and that appear to be related to integrative processes involved in more effective linguistic encoding.

These findings were seen to reflect the difficulty which the Isolated patients have in integrating "ideo-motor" aspects of experience. That is, Isolated patients show a deficit in the capacity to utilize verbally encoded thought to represent their experience, and this results in greater difficulty in integrating thought and action. The role of aggression and its deneutralization was discussed in connection with its possible significance in the impairment of the representational function in schizophrenia.

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