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Pederson-Krag, G. (1954). Communication. The Social Matrix of Psychiatry: By Jurgen Ruesch, M.D. and Gregory Bateson. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1951. 314 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 23:594-596.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:594-596

Communication. The Social Matrix of Psychiatry: By Jurgen Ruesch, M.D. and Gregory Bateson. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1951. 314 pp.

Review by:
Geraldine Pederson-Krag

The purpose of this book, as described in the text, is to bridge in some measure at least the gap between the natural and humanistic sciences. The authors observe that a human being exists within the framework of various social situations in which his relationship is with one other person, or with a group of other persons, or with his culture. They deplore that these various relationships have been studied by different disciplines which do not share each other's concepts and language. To remedy this, the authors 'propose to use one single system for the understanding of the multiple aspects of human behavior'—the study of communication. This 'link that connects psychiatry with all other sciences' includes all processes by which one person influences another; it includes the perception and production of sensory impressions, and awareness of memory traces as well.

In establishing this premise, the authors make many statements which this reviewer must question. Speaking of 'the limitations of man's communications', they say: 'Beyond a certain maximum any increase in the number of messages in transit leads to a jamming of the network, and so to a decrease in the number of messages which reach their appropriate destination. This … the psychiatrist calls anxiety.' Later, 'Insecurity is the direct result of anonymity of origin or destination of messages'. Finally, 'The task of the modern therapist can be compared to the task of the maintenance engineer—who repairs the great overland power lines'.

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