Sunday, November 25, 2007

Freud today

The American Psychoanalytic Association is in the news with a forthcoming study about the role of psychoanalysis today. It'll be in the American Journal of Psychiatry but I don't see a pre-print out yet. The story is floating around in various newspapers, like the NYT this morning, here. Here's the punchline, from the Times:
A new report … has found that while psychoanalysis — or what purports to be psychoanalysis — is alive and well in literature, film, history and just about every other subject in the humanities, psychology departments and textbooks treat it as “desiccated and dead,” a historical artifact instead of “an ongoing movement and a living, evolving process.”
I guess I find that pretty unsurprising, as far as Psychology goes, and the reason isn't a shocker either, in this quote from the chair of Psych at Northwestern:
The primary reason it became marginalized, Ms. Eagly, said, is that while most disciplines in psychology began putting greater emphasis on testing the validity of their approaches scientifically, “psychoanalysts haven’t developed the same evidence-based grounding.” As a result, most psychology departments don’t pay as much attention to psychoanalysis.
Of course Freud and psychoanalysis are thriving in the humanities and there's the rub. Psychoanalysts and psychologists say things like this about those extensions or applications or whatever they are (again quoting from the article):
  • The report complains of the wide gulf between the academic’s and the psychoanalyst’s approach and vocabulary, which has made their respective applications of Freud’s theories virtually unrecognizable to each other.
  • “I honestly couldn’t understand what they’re talking about … .”
  • Much of postmodern theorizing has harmed psychoanalysis, saying it has “rendered claims even more fuzzy and more difficult to assess.”
Sounds similar to complaints from linguists about how some of the same humanities folks have appropriated a lot of stuff from our field.

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