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Potential Weaknesses to Freudian Theory

Potential Weaknesses to Freudian Theory

Potential Weaknesses

Many have criticised Freud’s alleged overemphasis of instincts (and especially the sex instinct) and underemphasis of social relationships.  Neo-Freudian approaches, in general, have even played down the importance of the unconscious itself, preferring to attribute a more prominent role to the ego in directing behaviour, and to recognise more fully the influence of social and cultural factors in human development. [Aspects of post-Freudian theory may be touched upon during the course – refer also Brown (1961).]

Others (e.g., those of behaviourist orientation) have highlighted the unscientific nature of psychoanalysis, claiming the absence of testable and bidirectional hypotheses (i.e., hypotheses predicting the future as well as inferring the past).  It is as though psychoanalysis were immune to disproof. This appears to be due, partly, to the diffuse (and even poetic) nature of key concepts making for difficulties in quantification and measurement, and also to the prevalence of contradictory ideas providing the facility to account retrospectively for all eventualities. On this latter theme, frequently quoted is a study by Scodel (1957) in which the idea was tested that men who liked small breasts would be more dependent than those who preferred large breasts. The opposite actually turned out to be the case, which merely resulted in hardline followers of psychoanalysis dredging up the old faithful stand-by of reaction formation as an explanation.

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