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Westerlundh, B. Smith, G. (1983). Perceptgenesis and the Psychodynamics of Perception. Psychoanal. Contemp. Thought, 6(4):597-640.

(1983). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 6(4):597-640

Perceptgenesis and the Psychodynamics of Perception

Bert Westerlundh, Ph.D. and Gudmund Smith, Ph.D.

Psychoanalysis and Perception

Present-day experimental psychology points irrevocably to the fact that much—if not most—mental processing takes place outside of consciousness (Dixon, 1971, 1981). Of course, psychoanalysis has been making the same point for a long time. However, the new emphasis given to preconscious processing by academic psychologists is not due to a generally increased appreciation of psychoanalytic tenets. Rather, it springs from experimental data. Whereas the psychoanalytic idea stemmed from observations on hysterics and persons undergoing hypnosis, the experimentalists reach their conclusion not least from studies on visual perception.

Perception is indeed a stepchild of psychoanalysis. It is something of a paradox that Freud, the investigator who did most to break the identification of the mental with the conscious, limited his endeavors to those processes which have their starting point in memory or fantasy. The process of perception was never a topic of central importance to Freud, but it is clear that whenever he touches upon it (e.g.,

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