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Brandt, L.W. (1974). Experiments in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(1):95-98.

(1974). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(1):95-98

Experiments in Psychoanalysis

Lewis W. Brandt, Ph.D.

One of the main criticisms leveled by academic psychology against psychoanalysis is that its hypotheses cannot be experimentally tested. What, however, are the criteria for the experimental test of a hypothesis? They consist of setting up a situation in which an independent variable is manipulated by the experimenter in the presence of the kind of “subject” to whom the hypothesis applies and of observing whether or not the dependent variable stipulated in the hypothesis occurs. In principle, this is what every psychoanalyst does when he intervenes by interpretation or otherwise in the psychoanalytic treatment process. Freud5 clearly stipulated the criterion for falsification of a hypothesis in psychoanalysis: “The patient remains as though he were untouched by what has been said and reacts to it with neither a ‘Yes’ nor a'No.'”5a Similarly, Freud stated the criteria for considering a hypothesis as supported: “A plain'Yes' from a patient … [if] it is followed by indirect confirmation, [i.e.,] the patient, immediately after his'Yes,' produces new memories which complete and extend the construction.”5b In his further elaboration Freud stated: “An equally valuable confirmation is implied … when the patient answers with an association which contains something similar or analogous to the content of the construction.”5c

Using Freud's criteria of falsification and confirmation, I tested a hypothesis from “paradigmatic” technique, an accessory to classical psychoanalysis described in Roles and Paradigms in Psychotherapy. 6 The hypothesis may be stated as follows: Analysands who resist change by “enslavement … to an onerous ego ideal ('I must be brave like Daddy')”6b will give up part of their resistance if “the analyst fulfills the patient's recommendations as to how he should be treated.”6a

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