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Flugel, J.C. (1939). The Examination as Initiation Rite and Anxiety Situation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 20:275-286.

(1939). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 20:275-286

The Examination as Initiation Rite and Anxiety Situation

J. C. Flugel

In both primitive and civilized communities, society tends to institutionalize certain of the major affect-arousing situations, and, by linking them to suitable occasions, utilize them for ends of real or supposed social value. In our own culture and in certain others, competition between equals is canalized in sport and in the economic field. Nationalism, as Ernest Jones was the first to show, provides an outlet for emotions originally aroused in connection with the earliest object relationships, as well as with displaced narcissistic tendencies. It mobilizes and discharges the ambivalent feelings of the younger generation towards their parents. A similar ambivalence, but one that reflects chiefly the attitude of the older generation towards the younger, is seen in initiation ceremonies. These ceremonies, as Th. Reik has shown, predominantly express envy and jealousy (mixed with love) in the elders, and fear (mixed with reverence and gratitude) in the initiates. Although initiation ceremonies of one kind or another exist at all levels of culture, in our own civilization they are found in one peculiar socialized and rationalized form in which they play a considerable part in our whole cultural organization, i.e. as examinations. For there is no doubt that sociologically the examination must be regarded as an initiation rite.

Now it happens that scientific interest in examinations has considerably increased in recent years. Following upon a realization of certain disturbing factors in examinations which may considerably detract from their value as measures of knowledge or capacity, there have been made lately a number of important investigations which have thrown much light upon the nature and extent of these factors and the methods by which we may hope to minimize their influence.


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