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Lecture 5

INST 354 Lecture 5: INST354 Lecture 5: Psychoanalytic Theory to Cognition

Information Studies
Course Code
INST 354

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INST354 Lecture 5: Psychoanalytic Theory to Cognition
Most of the work discussed in this book has been done in the last half-century. Why? Because
until the 1950s, psychology was dominated by two traditions: psychoanalytic theory and
behaviorism. Neither of these traditionswhich became preeminent in the early 1900streated
thought as an important determinant of human behavior.
Unconscious needs and desires were the primary stuff of psychoanalytic theory; even
defense mechanisms, by which these unconscious impulses could be channeled into socially
acceptableor neuroticbehaviors, were viewed as largely unconscious, and hence outside of
the awareness of the individual. (People who claimed to be aware of their own defense
mechanisms were said to be denying their problems through “intellectualization”; only the
psychoanalyst could really understand them.)
lthough dogmatic acceptance of psychoanalytic theory still lingers on in some settings,
skepticism was enhanced by its failure to explain one of the most important psychopathologies
of the 20th century, Nazism. A strong implication of the theory was that the Nazi leaders, who
engaged in monstrous activities, had to be suffering from the types of pathologies postulated by
the theory. Moreover, these pathologies had to be related to pathologies and traumas of
childhood, whichaccording to the theoryare crucial to the development of adult disorders.
As Wordsworth said, “The child is father to the man.” In fact, a 1943 United States Office of
Strategic Services report, by Walter C. Langer, was devoted to an analysis of Adolf Hitler and a
prediction of his future actions based on his “psychosexual perversion,” which was later found
not to exist. Supposedly incapable of normal sexual intercourse, Hitler was believed to achieve
sexual release through urinating and defecating on his mistress. Moreover, Langer (1943/1972)
wrote that Hitler survived World War I by granting homosexual favors to his officers. There is no
historical evidence of any such behaviors. In fact, applying Hitler’s philosophy of the
insignificance of the individual human life to his own life as well as to others, he served without
hesitation in the particularly dangerous position of a battlefield messenger, declining promotion
to a safer position.
Psychoanalytic interpretations made no mention of Hitler’s basic cognitive assumptions about
the world, his thinking style, the ways in which he framed problems, or the heuristics he used for
solving them. Instead, his behavior was predicted on the basis of his conflicted hatred of his
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