Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 18/19
Psychoanalysis/Psychological Theories: Psychoanalytic theory has often been criticized for failure to use the scientific method, preferring clinical observation and induction to empirical testing and falsification. Outside of psychoanalytic theory, Carl Rogers pioneered the empirical testing of person-centred therapy techniques, and the research that he began has, cumulatively, supported most of his therapy suggestions (Kirschenbaum and Jourdan 2005(1); Rogers and Dymond 1954(2)). Can psychoanalysis be reconciled with scientific methods? There are hopeful signs.
Some psychoanalytically informed researchers are using methods in the scientific tradition of hypothesis testing to put psychoanalytic hypotheses to the test, challenging others to do the same in order to prevent the demise of psychoanalytic theory and to facilitate its reconnection with the mainstream (Bornstein 2001(3), 2005(4)). Many concepts in personality theory today, including implicit memory, retrieval error, cognitive avoidance, person schema, and a central executive, to name a few, offer other language for phenomena observed earlier by psychoanalysis, according to Bornstein (2005). For example, the self-control depletion interpretation of how cognition is impaired after thoughts of death (Gailliot, Schmeichel and Baumeister 2006(5)) is reminiscent of Freud’s energy hypothesis in which the ego has limited resources, though the new theoretical framework lends itself more readily to laboratory research.


1. Kirschenbaum, H. and Jourdan, A. 2005. The current status of Carl Rogers and the person-centered approach, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training 42: 37–51
2. Rogers, C. R. and Dymond, R. (eds.) 1954. Psychotherapy and personality change. Chicago University Press.
3. Bornstein, R. F. 2001. The impending death of psychoanalysis, Psychoanalytic Psychology 18: 3–20
4. Bornstein, R. F. 2005. Reconnecting psychoanalysis to mainstream psychology: challenges and opportunities, Psychoanalytic Psychology 22: 323–40
5. Gailliot, M. T., Schmeichel, B. J. and Baumeister, R. F. 2006. Self-regulatory processes defend against the threat of death: effects of self-control depletion and trait self-control on thoughts and fears of dying, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 91: 49–62


Susan Cloninger, “Conceptual issues in personality theory”, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Psychological Theories
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018


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