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Schmale, A. (1974). The Sensory Deprivations: An Approach to the Study of the Induction of Affects. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 22:626-642.

(1974). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22:626-642

The Sensory Deprivations: An Approach to the Study of the Induction of Affects

A. Schmale, M.D.

David Freedman, in his opening remarks, pointed out that, despite the central roles affective phenomena have always held, we still do not have a satisfactory psychoanalytic theory of affect. We have difficulty in even defining what an affect is, how it can be measured, and how it can be recognized. Many of the questions concerning the nature of affects involve the dilemma of the psychophysiological interface, i.e., what we define as psychic activity and how it interacts with or how it varies in connection with physiological or somatic activity. Neither the analyst with his skills nor the traditional laboratory physical scientist is fully equipped to study the problems of affect. In a sense the converse of the conventional experimental model, the study of sensory-deprivation phenomena, both from a developmental and an adaptational point of view, can be conceived of as a natural experiment. One deals in this situation with a single constant in an otherwise highly variable situation. Consistently occurring behaviors in a group of individuals who have the same sensory defect can therefore be considered to be correlated with the absence of the sensory experience.

Sensory-deprivation situations should give us further insights into development, particularly as it involves object relations and the intrapsychic representations of self and others.

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