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The Scientific Legacy of Sigmund Freud Toward a Psychodynamically Informed Psychological Science
Drew Westen Department of Psychiatry Harvard Medical School ABSTRACT Although commentators periodically declare that Freud is dead, his repeated burials lie on shaky grounds. Critics typically attack an archaic version of psychodynamic theory that most clinicians similarly consider obsolete. Central to contemporary psychodynamic theory is a series of propositions about (a) unconscious cognitive, affective, and motivational processes; (b) ambivalence and the tendency for affective and motivational dynamics to operate in parallel and produce compromise solutions; (c) the origins of many personality and social dispositions in childhood; (d) mental representations of the self, others, and relationships; and (e) developmental dynamics. An enormous body of research in cognitive, social, developmental, and personality psychology now supports many of these propositions. Freud's scientific legacy has implications for a wide range of domains in psychology, such as integration of affective and motivational constraints into connectionist models in cognitive science. Freud, like Elvis, has been dead for a number of years but continues to be cited with some regularity. Although the majority of clinicians report that they rely to some degree upon psychodynamic 1 principles in their work ( Pope, Tabachnick, & Keith-Spiegel, 1987 ), most researchers consider psychodynamic ideas to be at worst absurd and obsolete and at best irrelevant or of little scientific interest. In the lead article of a recent edition of Psychological Science, Crews (1996) arrived at a conclusion shared by many: "[T]here is literally nothing to be said, scientifically or therapeutically, to the advantage of the entire Freudian system or any of its... [continues]
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