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Gillespie, W.H. (1943). Psychopathology: Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes. Volume Two: Conditioned Reflexes and Psychiatry. By I. P. Pavlov. Translated by W. Horsley Gantt. (Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1941. Pp. 199. Price, 8 s. 6 d.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 24:80-81.

(1943). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 24:80-81

Psychopathology: Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes. Volume Two: Conditioned Reflexes and Psychiatry. By I. P. Pavlov. Translated by W. Horsley Gantt. (Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1941. Pp. 199. Price, 8 s. 6 d.)

Review by:
W. H. Gillespie

This volume is a collection of Pavlov's writings between 1928 and his death in 1936, at the age of eighty-six years. To review it appreciatively one would have to be an initiate of the Pavlov school of the 'physiology of the higher nervous activity'. For an ordinary psychiatrist it makes laborious reading, owing partly to the technical jargon, but perhaps chiefly to a translation which is far from felicitous and in places barely comprehensible.

At the age of eighty, Pavlov switched his scientific work from the experimental study of conditioned reflexes in dogs, which had occupied him for thirty years, to the totally unfamiliar field of clinical psychiatry, endeavouring to apply his laboratory results clinically. These lectures give no polished, systematic account of his conclusions, and they seem merely to point to a number of interesting and stimulating analogies, whose real value would require much careful working out. The analogies are drawn between 'neuroses' produced experimentally in dogs by various kinds of conditioned reflex experiments, and spontaneously occurring human neuroses and psychoses. Although some passages show that Pavlov is not unaware of the fallacies that may underlie such analogies, for the most part he seems to be so carried away by his enthusiasm as to forget due caution. He has, in fact, probably brought out the main fallacy himself when he points out that man differs from all other animals in having a secondary 'signalling system' superimposed on the primary one of the conditioned reflexes; this secondary system is on the symbolic or verbal level. But this does not prevent Pavlov from assuming that the mechanisms adequate to explain certain phenomena on the conditioned reflex level can be applied on the symbolic level of hysteria, obsessional neurosis, etc.

Some of the main experimental phenomena which he applies in this way are those described as 'the complete isolation of functionally pathological (at the ætiological moment) points of the cortex' (corresponding to Freud's 'isolation' in obsessional neurosis?); 'the pathological inertness of the excitatory process' (cf. perseverative tendency of obsessional and paranoid processes); and 'the ultraparadoxical phase' (inhibition and negativism).

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