Abstract This paper compares the psychoanalytic description of inner experience with that of the cognitive sciences, which see it in terms of information processing. The two observational standpoints relate to the same mental events. The author considers the possibility of bringing the two descriptions into line with each other and of their mutual translation. The “information” processed in the deep, unconscious, affective, internal experience of a relational context must be identified. This may be possible if a general theory of mental functioning that allows for the data of psychoanalytic observation in terms of semantics, memory, and communication can be formulated. The author examines the theoretical tradition of psychoanalysis, and draws attention to the uncertainties to which Freud's metapsychology gives rise. The energy/drive theory was not only descriptive and clinical in nature, but also had explanatory value, which put psychoanalysis in contact with the other mental sciences of the time. This explanatory value is no longer valid today, and psychoanalytic theories since Freud seem to have disregarded the aspect of “explanation,” leaving a theoretical void that has isolated psychoanalysis from the other sciences of the mind. The author contends that object theories may be an appropriate starting point for the exploration of experience in terms of learning processes and of memory traces, and suggests a psychoanalytic cognitivism, coupled with a personal theory to explain the development of the mind.
Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis & Dynamic Psychiatry – Guilford Press
Published: Dec 1, 2003