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Ekstrom, S.R. (2005). Response to ‘The influence of complexes on implicit learning’. J. Anal. Psychol., 50(2):191-193.
(2005). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50(2):191-193
Response to ‘The influence of complexes on implicit learning’
Soren R. Ekstrom, Ph.D.
Having the opportunity to respond to this fascinating and original research from the University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, and the C.G. Jung Institute of Korea is both an honour and a challenge. Jung's association experiment or Word Association Test (WAT) was a required part of my training in Zürich in the 1960s, but I must confess I have not found much use for it since. In my own explorations of findings about implicit memory and their effects on clinical practice, Jung's theory of complexes served as a background for the further pursuit of trauma and images of an archetypal nature. The WAT, however, did not enter into this equation (Ekstrom 2002)
What is unique about the research by Drs. Shin, Lee, Han, and Rhi is that they were able to distance themselves from entrenched explanations of why a person's attention becomes disturbed. Especially among those familiar with Jung's work, we tend to accept his assertion that the main significance of demonstrating how emotionally charged reactions interfere with attention, is that it proves the existence of an unconscious psyche.
This, it turns out, may not be the whole story. As to the proof of the unconscious, there are numerous other ways of establishing this fact. The existence of unconsciousprocesses has today been concluded from many studies in branches of cognitive science (Bowers & Meichenbaum 1984; Lakoff & Johnson 1999). Some authors use the-term ‘implicit memory’, others prefer the term ‘cognitive unconscious’, but the result is the same: a confirmation of the fact that Jung observed some one hundred years ago in developing his association experiment (Shamdasani 2003).
What did not occur to Jung—and this is not a criticism of his groundbreaking research—is that the activation of unconscious complexes may also produce reactions in the conscious mind of the person. In fact, when considering how arousal and attention have proven intimately connected to strong memory encoding, we should, knowing what we know today, expect some type of learning to occur. So for instance, in studies by James McGaugh of the University of California, Irvine, arousal—which translates into what Jung calls ‘a certain psychic situation which is strongly accentuated emotionally’ (Jung 1934, para.
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