Bulletin of the Psychoanalytic Research Society, Volume IV, Number 1, Spring, 1995

The Editor's Message

Psychoanalysis in the Undergraduate Curriculum: An Agenda for the Psychoanalytic Researcher

Robert F. Bornstein, Ph.D.
Gettysburg College

Several months ago I spoke with a colleague who was in the process of writing an undergraduate Introductory Psychology text. As we discussed the promises and pitfalls of this rather daunting task, I remarked to my colleague that he must be excited about the opportunity to say some positive things about psychoanalysis in a book that would serve as many students' first real exposure to the field of psychology. In a tone which reflected both sadness and frustration, my colleague responded that he had originally envisioned this project as an opportunity to do just that--to present to students a thorough, balanced discussion of the importance of psychoanalytic theory and research for many different areas in psychology. But, he added, the publisher would not let him do it. Every time he sent to the publisher a chapter draft which said something positive about psychoanalytic theory, the publisher told him to tone it down or take it out.

The publisher's rationale for this thinly veiled attempt to censor my colleague's ideas? According to the publisher, undergraduate texts that say positive things about psychoanalysis just don't sell very well. Apparently, so many academic psychologists are hostile toward psychoanalytic theory and research that--from a marketing standpoint--a text which says anything positive about psychoanalysis is doomed to fail. Few academics are willing to adopt such a text for their courses, and publishers fear that a text which says positive things about psychoanalysis would remain on the shelves unsold, never reaching its intended audience. The publisher's message here is clear: The idea that psychoanalysis is an outmoded, outdated theory has become so widespread among academic psychologists that publishers of undergraduate texts believe they have no choice but to belittle or ignore psychoanalytic theory, or they will risk investing a substantial sum of money developing a textbook that no one will use.

Needless to say, this is a disturbing situation, and one which creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Because many academics are hostile toward psychoanalysis, publishers will only invest in textbooks that are negative (or at best, neutral) regarding psychoanalytic theory and research. Consequently, undergraduate students are repeatedly exposed to a negative view of psychoanalysis, beginning at the very outset of their careers. The widespread myth that psychoanalytic theory and research are of little value in modern psychology thus becomes concretized and reified, and the next generation of psychologists internalizes a negative image of psychoanalysis which they will ultimately pass on to their own students when they begin to teach.

As disturbing as this situation is, it is not limited to Introductory Psychology texts. Several years ago, I reviewed the treatment of psychoanalytic theory in several widelyused Abnormal Psychology texts, and found that every text that I reviewed contained misrepresentations and/or factual errors in its presentation of psychoanalytic theory (Bornstein, 1988). The same is true of many undergraduate Personality texts. Interestingly, the antipsychoanalytic stance which characterizes many Personality texts has set in motion a lively (and ongoing) debate which has appeared in the past few issues of Dialogue, the Division 8 (Society for Personality and Social Psychology) newsletter. As a consequence of this debate, several influential nonpsychoanalytic researchers have stepped forward to defend the value of psychoanalysis in the undergraduate curriculum (see, e. g., Baumeister & Tice, 1994; Hogan, 1994). Publishers' fears notwithstanding, it is clear that there are academic psychologists out there who are receptive to psychoanalytic theory and research.

Clearly, we must continue to teach our professional colleagues about the important role that psychoanalysis has played (and continues to play) in many domains within our discipline. However, it is time to open a "second front" in the ongoing battle to restore psychoanalytic theory to its rightful place as the cornerstone of much of modern psychology. In addition to teaching our colleagues about the value of psychoanalytic theory and research, we must begin to take a more active (and activist) role in moving psychoanalysis to the center of the undergraduate psychology curriculum. It is easy to see how we might make headway in this regard in Personality and Abnormal Psychology courses. I would argue that we can also utilize (and encourage our colleagues to utilize) psychoanalytic concepts more fully in undergraduate courses in developmental, social, cognitive and even physiological psychology.

One important step in this direction will be to develop a resource list of psychoanalytic hooks and articles that are relevant to theory and research in each of these areas. Such an endeavor is beyond the scope of this article (although it must he noted that future issues of the Bulletin could serve as an ideal forum for the development of such resource lists). Nonetheless, a few examples of recentlypublished books and articles that might be included in such a resource list illustrates the potential value of this strategy as a means of informing undergraduate (and graduate) students about the contributions of psychoanalytic theory and research to various domains within psychology.

For those of us who teach developmental psychology, Emde's (1992) article on the contributions of Freud and Spitz to modern theories of child development can be a very valuable resource (see also Blatt & Blass, 1990). Those of us who teach social psychology would he remiss if we did not use Uleman and Bargh's (1989) volume on nonconscious social information processing to illustrate the influence that psychoanalytic theories of the unconscious have had on recent research in social psychology (see also Greenwald, 1992). In the cognitive domain, Schacter's (1987) landmark article on implicit memory acknowledges the impact that Freud's writings have had on theories of perception, cognition and memory without awareness (see also Bornstein & Pittman, 1992). Finally, Winson's (1984) book on neurological correlates of unconscious mental processes can serve as a useful starting point for a lecture or discussion focusing on the psychoanalytic roots of physiological research examining the role that cortical structures may play in mediating unconscious cognitions, motivations and emotional responses (see also Robinson, 1984).

These are but a few examples of the links that can be made between nonpsychoanalytic research programs and concepts and findings which have emerged from psychoanalytic theory during the past several decades. There are many other possibilities in this regard, and I would welcome the suggestions of Psychoanalytic Research Society members regarding other useful resources in this area. Although educating our colleagues regarding the utility of psychoanalytic concepts in the classroom and the laboratory is an important (and ongoing) task, it is time to turn our attention to educating the next generation of psychologists regarding these same issues before they develop a strong and inflexible anti-psychoanalytic stance. Clearly, textbook publishers are not going to be of much help in this regard, and we cannot depend completely upon our nonpsychoanalytic colleagues to accomplish this task for us. The responsibility for informing undergraduate students about the exciting, innovative ideas and findings which are emerging in our field lies squarely on our shoulders.


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