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Meissner, W.W., S.J. (1974). The Role of Imitative Social Learning in Identificatory Processes. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 22:512-536.

(1974). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22:512-536

The Role of Imitative Social Learning in Identificatory Processes

W. W. Meissner, S.J.

ONE OF THE IMPORTANT PRECISIONS that has often been ignored or glossed over in psychoanalytic understanding of identification and related forms of internalization is the differentiation of such mechanisms from learning processes. There is little doubt that the general phenomenon of socialization involves both mechanisms of internalization and processes of social learning. These respective concepts stem from different disciplines and different approaches to the study of human behavior. It is nonetheless one of the deficiencies in analytic understanding of identificatory and socialization processes that the role of learning effects has not been adequately integrated.

In previous discussions of this general question, I have tried to differentiate learning and identificatory processes in terms of their respective origins, assumptions, conditions, and explanatory relevance (Meissner, 1973). I have also explored the respective roles of learning and identificatory processes in the developmental sequence (Meissner, in press). My present purpose is to delineate more specifically the respective contributions of social learning phenomena to the processes of introjection and identification themselves, with particular emphasis on imitative behavioral learning processes, inasmuch as they are the best studied and most clearly articulated of social learning theories. It is clear that learning and identificatory processes interact, influence each other, and are variously integrated. My present intention is to examine this mutual influence in greater detail.

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