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Palombo, S. (1981). II Stanley Palombo. Psychoanal. Rev., 68(2):168-173.

(1981). Psychoanalytic Review, 68(2):168-173

II Stanley Palombo

Stanley Palombo, M.D.

When I read Information, Systems and Psychoanalysis for the first time, nearly ten years ago, my enthusiasm led me to think that Peterfreund's work would open a new era of psychoanalytic research and lead before very long to a systematic restatement of psychoanalytic theory. I was already convinced that information theory could fill important gaps in our traditional conceptualizations. Peterfreund's willingness to tackle fundamental issues made me hope for more.

Today I am more persuaded than ever that the project initiated by Information, Systems and Psychoanalysis is essential to the scientific health of psychoanalysis. But it now appears that important obstacles remain before it can be brought to fulfillment. My discussion will try to focus on these obstacles, and to suggest some research strategies through which they may be circumvented.

Much of Peterfreund's writing is concerned with defining and identifying the basic units of mental activity which an organism struggling to adapt itself to a highly differentiated environment would be most likely to use. Opportunities and dangers must be recognized, sorted, evaluated, and acted upon. Receptors, effectors, and central processing systems must have constant access to feedback information that reports the nature and degree of mismatch between a desired state of affairs and the actual one.

Peterfreund very naturally concentrates his attention on a variety of critical interactions between an organism and its environment. These range from the situation of a thermostat in a home heating system (a simple equilibrium-seeking device) to that of a psychoanalytic patient associating freely in the presence of an analyst. Peterfreund points out the impressive formal similarities between even the simplest and the most complex of these widely divergent interacting systems, and proposes that the more complex can be usefully viewed as compoundings and concatenations of the simpler ones.


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