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Slap, J.W. (1996). The Adaptive Design of the Human Psyche: Malcolm Owen Slavin and Daniel Kriegman, New York: Guilford, 1992, xv + 336 pp., $40. Psychoanal. Psychol., 13(4):571-574.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 13(4):571-574

The Adaptive Design of the Human Psyche: Malcolm Owen Slavin and Daniel Kriegman, New York: Guilford, 1992, xv + 336 pp., $40

Review by:
Joseph W. Slap, M.D.

The Adaptive Design of the Human Psyche offers an evolutionary perspective on the mind. Reasoning from natural selection, it holds that over the estimated 50 million years or 10 million generations since man parted company from the chimpanzee, deep psychological structures evolved that enhanced man's chances for survival and procreation. These structures are considered in the context of current psychoanalytic theoretical models, which the authors see as being organized around two divergent paradigms: the classical and relational models. After identifying the deep structures and their implications for both models, the authors attempt a synthesis compatible with the deep structures. The authors make a novel contribution to psychoanalytic thought, and their arguments should serve as a corrective for elements of both the classical and relational theories. In their enthusiasm, however, they appear to be carried away when they discuss certain clinical concepts and reach conclusions that are quite incongruent with clinical experience.

Slavin and Kriegman characterize the classical and relational theories, or narratives, as having four distinct dichotomies. The classical view regards the individual patient as the basic unit of psychoanalysis, whereas the relational narrative considers the interpersonal field wherein the individual can be understood only within an interactive context. The basic source of patterning or structure formation are the endogenous drives within the classical narrative and the vicissitudes of interpersonal interactions within the relational narrative. In the classical narrative there is an inherent clash of normal individual aims, and in the relational narrative there is an emphasis on mutual, reciprocal, and convergent aims.

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