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Erdelyi, M. (2006). Commentary on “Testing Freud's Hypothesis That Word Forms and Word Meaning are Functionally Distinct”. Neuropsychoanalysis, 8(2):143-145.

(2006). Neuropsychoanalysis, 8(2):143-145

Commentary on “Testing Freud's Hypothesis That Word Forms and Word Meaning are Functionally Distinct” Related Papers

Matthew Erdelyi

Grainy Continua Versus Categorical Dichotomies

This thought-provoking and ambitious target article courses over more than a century of neuroscience, experimental psychology, and clinical thinking, and it attempts, on the basis of a subliminal perception study, to provide an experimental underpinning to Freud's distinction between primary (Ucs.) and secondary-process (Cs.-Pcs.) functioning.

It is worth underscoring at the outset that what is concretely presented here is only one study that yielded one main effect—a supraliminal forward-priming outcome (e.g., DOG -» CANINE)—and, only with nuanced statistical probing, turned up some interactions between sensitivity (a”) and individual differences (anxiety, repressiveness) in subliminal priming of “palindrome” associates (e.g., DOG -» ANGEL). No replications or extensions of the experiment are provided, and one is left pondering many questions. Can the interactions be produced as main effects? Can the outcomes be obtained at shorter and longer exposures and following different time intervals between stimuli and tests? Do short and long subliminal words produce the effects, and, if so, to the same extent? Does emotionality play a role? (e.g., RAIL vs. LIAR; LIVED vs. DEVIL; LIVE vs. EVIL; MOOD vs. DOOM)? Would anagrams work—and should they not? Would not more psychoanalytic types of measures, such as free-associative fantasy, produce the effects, and, importantly, since free associations can be assessed over time and over different temporal windows, would the effects show interesting temporal dynamics? Should we expect similar findings with pictures—specifically, disinhibited priming effects at low durations? What kinds of effects might be expected with Chinese script (which Freud occasionally mentions) since the “word-forms” (or “Visual word images”: Freud, 1891, p.

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