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Steingart, I. (1985). Cognitive Aspects of Splitting and Libidinal Object Constancy: A Reconsideration and Reappraisal. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 33:974-977.

(1985). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 33:974-977

Cognitive Aspects of Splitting and Libidinal Object Constancy: A Reconsideration and Reappraisal Related Papers

Irving Steingart, Ph.D.

Melito (1983) advanced ideas in this Journal on how to "interrelate aspects of cognitive development as described by Piaget, with the development of libidinal object constancy described by Mahler and her co-workers" (p. 515). This commentary corrects what I believe to be misapplications in the use of Piaget's ideas by Melito, to the detriment of both theories, Piagetian and psychoanalytic.

Melito's theoretical argument makes use of a change in a young child's cognitive ability which is described by Piaget (1947) as a change from "preoperational" (or "preconceptual") thinking to thinking which is "intuitive." This change in cognitive capability begins to become evident at about the age of four. Melito uses a procedure devised by Piaget to assess the concept of quantity. A four- to six-year-old, intuitive-thinking child, shown two beakers with the same amount of water, but one, A, long and skinny, another, B, short and wide, will center on either height or width and will declare either A or B contains more water. If the intuitive-thinking child has centered on height, this conclusion will persist if beaker A is made successively thinner. But a point will be reached when the intuitive-thinking child will say beaker A now has less water in it than beaker B because it is "skinnier" than B. The younger, one-and-a-half-to four-year-old child will never change centering and reach such a conclusion.

Intuitive thought involves not simply a single centration, as does preconceptual thought, but rather two successive centerings.

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