Why is Freud still being taught in University level Psychology courses?

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Discussion by: bellap

I am currently in my third year of a psychology degree in Australia, and in every single unit there is a Freud component which I am finding to be extremely frustrating and contradictory. The field of psychology is still in the process of establishing itself as a legitimate science, yet they continue to regurgitate unsubstantiated theories into their teaching literature. I acknowlege that Freud provided a foundation for psychologcial analysis, however he should only be taught in a historical context, not in a theoretical context which is what they are currently doing. Is this a case of teachers just being lazy or is there educational value in Freud's theories?

80 COMMENTS

  1. I have never agreed more with any discussion topic on this site. I’ve thought the same thing for a long time: why is Freud still taken so seriously in so many academic, therapeutic, and even scientific circles? Its ridiculous. I think he’s worth studying as part of a course on the history of psychology but that’s about it and its an example of how abysmal the general understanding of science is in our culture that more people don’t notice this.

    • In reply to #1 by Red Dog:

      I have never agreed more with any discussion topic on this site. I’ve thought the same thing for a long time: why is Freud still taken so seriously in so many academic, therapeutic, and even scientific circles? Its ridiculous. I think he’s worth studying as part of a course on the history of psychol…

      I wonder if it also ties in with the lack of evolutionary psychology that gets taught. You’ve read Trivers’ Deceit and Self-Deception, or The Folly of Fools, right? Remember that section about the social sciences? Based on Trivers’ and Pinkers’ works, I think part of it is a turning away, at least in part, from biological explanations, either consciously or not, and so a denial in part of E. O. Wilson’s “consilience”. Given the political history of the social sciences, it wouldn’t be surprising to me if many of the social sciences placed excessive emphasis on their own historical pioneers rather than incorporate work from a more current biological discipline, for “moralistic” reasons.

      Anecdotal as this is, I do remember getting one book about psychology when I was younger. I dug it out again recently and looked up “evolutionary psychology” in the index. It got one page which largely consisted of “Dawkins et al. believe this, psychology is about more than simple evolutionary explanations”. And that was it. How the Mind Works was a breath of fresh air by comparison.

      I’m not saying modern social scientists are consciously or even unconsciously working for some kind of agenda, but they might be stuck with a historical legacy that was the product of such an agenda.

      • In reply to #5 by Zeuglodon:

        In reply to #1 by Red Dog:

        I have never agreed more with any discussion topic on this site. I’ve thought the same thing for a long time: why is Freud still taken so seriously in so many academic, therapeutic, and even scientific circles? Its ridiculous. I think he’s worth studying as part of a cour…

        Yes, I remember that part of Trivers book, great book btw, actually I should have mentioned that book as another example in my last comment when I was talking about things I’ve read recently that qualify as science and are psychology. I agree absolutely, I remember (barely) when I studied psychology way back and (and this is odd given how everyone was a behaviorist then anyway) most teachers just dismissed biological and evolutionary explanations, except the guy who taught physiological psychology whose class (one of the hardest and best I’ve ever taken) was filled with them.

    • In reply to #1 by Red Dog:

      I have never agreed more with any discussion topic on this site. I’ve thought the same thing for a long time: why is Freud still taken so seriously in so many academic, therapeutic, and even scientific circles? Its ridiculous. I think he’s worth studying as part of a course on the history of psychol…
      Unfortunately it is because people don’t care. Students are too afraid to question the curriculum because they do not want their results to suffer.

  2. I agree. While I personally find many of Freud’s ideas to be deeply fascinating, they are too abstract and theoretical to be verified or to provide genuinely falsifiable experiments. Considering the important contribution of psychoanalysis, Freud definitely deserves to be acknowledged, if only from a historical perspective. Even so, I think that his theories are at least worth mentioning. They should, however, only be presented as just that–theoretical. I’ve always looked at psychology as an interesting bridge between sciences like neurology and philosophy for reasons such as these. If psychology wants to be taken seriously, however, it needs to focus on what is observable and testable. Speculation is perfectly fine, but evidence is far more important. I could be wrong however. Maybe this is only a result of my egocentric narcissism that is an emergent property of a sexual obsession with my mother that I never overcame during infancy…only kidding. Talk to your professor. Good luck!

  3. Yes, psychology has a hoarding problem!

    There is no educational value to these ” theories ” of Freud, excepting the historical value you mention, but psychology is not a science yet, it still is a social science and the phlogiston ” theory, ” so to speak, still hangs on. Science moves on when it needs to move on. Remember in France they treat autism with psychoanalysis and there are about 100,000 clinicians using this stuff in New York city.

    Go figure.

    PS: Some of the defense mechanisms Freud came up with may have a certain validity in the real world.

    • In reply to #3 by Neodarwinian:

      Yes, psychology has a hoarding problem!

      There is no educational value to these ” theories ” of Freud, excepting the historical value you mention, but psychology is not a science yet, it still is a social science and the phlogiston ” theory, ” so to speak, still hangs on. Science moves on when it ne…

      I disagree that psychology isn’t a science. That actually is why I think its so appalling that people take Freud seriously because there has been such real science done in psychology in the past few decades. Although, I suspect we don’t really disagree much if at all. All I would say is that psychology right now is a very immature science, no question of that, but there is real work being done.

      From the bottom up, the progress in the neuropsychology has been actually pretty impressive. We understand a lot about the nuts and bolts of how neurons work and interact with the nervous system. We can even connect prosthetic limbs directly to the nervous system. And at the computation level we can create systems that use a similar software approach called neural networks that can solve problems similar to the lower levels of the human cognition system things like recognizing edges, faces, etc.

      And at the cognitive level there is some excellent work being done as well. One area I’m very interested in is developing models of human ethics and understanding how our ethical judgements differ from primates. Steven Pinker, Mark Hauser, Scott Atran, all authors I’ve read recently that relate to these issues and that I think have very interesting things to say about human psychology that qualifies as actual science.

      • Dear Red… Did you mean this Marc Hauser?
        http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2012/09/05/remembering-and-being-mad-at-marc-hauser/
        In reply to #10 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #3 by Neodarwinian:

        Yes, psychology has a hoarding problem!

        There is no educational value to these ” theories ” of Freud, excepting the historical value you mention, but psychology is not a science yet, it still is a social science and the phlogiston ” theory, ” so to speak, still hang…

        • In reply to #16 by memetical:

          Dear Red… Did you mean this Marc Hauser?
          http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2012/09/05/remembering-and-being-mad-at-marc-hauser/

          Yes, that’s him. I’m familiar with the fact that he fudged some data and I agree its a disgrace that he did that. Its actually kind of ironic given that a lot of his work relates to ethics. I’m not saying I like the guy, actually compared to say Atran or Trivers I find his writing style somewhat annoying at times and from the example you referenced he obviously doesn’t have much integrity. The book I’m referring to is Moral Minds: How Nature Designed our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong

          Almost all of that book is him summarizing research of others. The fact that he committed scientific fraud means I would take a very careful look at any conclusions based on his own research but most of that book is just summarizing others and to my knowledge no one has said that the data fudging had any relevance to what he said in Moral Minds.

  4. I agree and I’m also a registered clinical psychologist. Freud is worth a mention for historical reasons, but he is also wrong in too many ways to count. Resources are limited and they should be allocated to far more important and scientific material. Make sure you express your dissatisfaction in the course evaluations.

    • In reply to #4 by Markco:

      I agree and I’m also a registered clinical psychologist. Freud is worth a mention for historical reasons, but he is also wrong in too many ways to count. Resources are limited and they should be allocated to far more important and scientific material. Make sure you express your dissatisfaction in th…

      I have mentioned my dissatisfaction to one of my lecturers in a previous subject. She defended the use and essentially dismissed my opinion. She was however the worst lecturer I have had in my course thus far, and she is also engaging in results bans that the teaching union is imposing within certain Victorian universities at the moment, which indicates the lack of ethical sensibilities and personal accountability that she possesses. I have not taken her opinion seriously, however it is frustrating that these people are allowed to teach at all. I had to actually ask for detailed feedback regarding one of my assignments, as I only received a mark. The marking of the assessments is extremely subjective and they are not forced to quantify their marking. They simply deduct marks and do not have to justify why. I see this as counterproductive to the learning process and it is a reflection of the decline in the quality of teaching standards in Australian Universities.

      • In reply to #56 by bellap:

        I had to actually ask for detailed feedback regarding one of my assignments, as I only received a mark. The marking of the assessments is extremely subjective and they are not forced to quantify their marking. They simply deduct marks and do not have to justify why. I see this as counterproductive to the learning process and it is a reflection of the decline in the quality of teaching standards in Australian Universities.

        That is really disappointing. I would have expected better from Australian schools. I agree that is just pathetic. For any class in science or math, which for me includes psych classes, there were always justifications for answers as far as I remember and if a student wanted to appeal an answer most teachers were open to it. I remember I drove a computer science prof crazy once because I wouldn’t give up on one question but I was convinced absolutely that I was right and he hadn’t refuted my argument. I think he just got tired of me but I got the points, which I didn’t need in that class anyway but it was the principle.

        Even in philosophy classes I remember students would argue over grading of answers and teachers would justify and at times change the result.

        • In reply to #61 by Red Dog:

          In reply to #56 by bellap:

          I had to actually ask for detailed feedback regarding one of my assignments, as I only received a mark. The marking of the assessments is extremely subjective and they are not forced to quantify their marking. They simply deduct marks and do not have to justify why. I see…
          Thanks for your comments Red Dog, I don’t feel like such a petty little bitch anymore :P . I am not right about many things, however this I feel is the exception.

  5. I’ve worked as a psychiatrist (ie primarily medical not analytic work) I’ve obviously encountered Freudian approaches in text book as individuals who have had analysis. This means I should tread warily as Freudian ideas are things I have a ‘little knowledge of’. My gut feeling is the OP is right in many ways – not least the evidence for Freudian assertions. However, I think many of his ideas or their immediate successors) still echo around (eg ego defence mechanisms) indeed to some extent have entered mainstream culture. I also think there will be be quite few practitioners, especially analysts, who work with a least reference to one of the Freudian schools.
    Thus, I can see that an undergraduate course – ie pre-specialist or research – would have an odd gap without Freud.

    But – from the outside at least – I think NeoDarwinian is right to allude to a wider problem in Psychology of ‘hoarding’, perhaps suggesting that in part the discipline sits between humanities (where one can appreciate both Da Vinci and Picasso) and science – where indeed phlogiston ideas etc are no longer actively used. But that in turn suggests w much wider and deeper change – revolution? in psychology and therapy.

    • In reply to #6 by steve_hopker:

      I’ve worked as a psychiatrist (ie primarily medical not analytic work) I’ve obviously encountered Freudian approaches in text book as individuals who have had analysis. This means I should tread warily as Freudian ideas are things I have a ‘little knowledge of’. My gut feeling is the OP is right in…

      I want to make it clear that as an individual and someone who is important in the history of western intellectual progress I think Freud is very significant. Even getting almost everything wrong can still be a big step forward if you are trying to solve questions no one has asked before.

      Also, I agree a lot of the words and even ideas, defense mechanisms, rationalizations, etc. are still relevant. As I said for historical reasons absolutely. Its just pretending that the theory makes sense as a theory that its worth taking things like id, ego, and superego seriously that I maintain is no longer something anyone who is literate about science should be doing.

      I also agree with the various points about the humanities. I think unfortunately that is part of the problem. People like art historians and literary critics don’t typically talk about inflation or the higgs boson as part of their “analysis” of stuff but they love to talk in Freudian terms and the Freudian pseudoscience is highly compatible with the post modern BS that passes for substantive work in a lot of the humanities.

    • In reply to #6 by steve_hopker:

      I’ve worked as a psychiatrist (ie primarily medical not analytic work) I’ve obviously encountered Freudian approaches in text book as individuals who have had analysis. This means I should tread warily as Freudian ideas are things I have a ‘little knowledge of’. My gut feeling is the OP is right in…
      I agree. The whole problem with psychology establishing itself as a legitimate science is that it relies mostly on observational experiments. It is very difficult to manipulate the IV without violating ethical and moral principles. I actually think Zeuglodon has a point regarding evolutionary psychology, the biological aspect of psychology is not really taught in undergraduate studies. Essentially all disorders are a result of biological changes to the brain whether they be structural defects or chemical imbalances. The two methods of the biomedical and psychosocial approaches are mentioned and compared, however there fails to be an integration of the two approaches. Hopefully this integration will the focus of the field in establishing a more robust theoretical and empirical foundation of which we can then begin to have a better understanding of the cause and effects of human behavior, and eliminate a lot of the guess work. The advancement in neuroimaging techniques will no doubt assist with this progression.

    • In reply to #7 by tara:

      Depends on what the components are about…some history is fine. I would be more interested in what exactly your being taught about Freud?
      tara.
      We are taught the psychosexual stages of development, something I personally think is completely absurd. It is fine if it is covered in one subject so that we know the theory exists, however it appears in 90% of my subjects, that is the issue I have

  6. I’m surprised by this. Perhaps it’s a remnant feature of your particular department?

    I did a BSc in psychology in the UK back in the 90s which included only a single 1 hour lecture on Freud, in a compulsory module and a 2 x 1 hour lectures on psychodynamic approaches to clinical psychology in an elective module. The latter really changed my attitudes toward modern views of psychodynamics (ego defence, projection etc), which were presented in such a way as to appear much more complex and scientifically plausible than, say, the ludicrously simplistic tenets of behaviourism (which constituted a far greater proportion of the degree program).

    Cognitive approaches to psychology are definitely the more pervasive throughout European departments nowadays and I’d have assumed this was pretty much the same pattern everywhere. While I’ve known plenty of psychologists who call themselves ‘cognitive’ and many (including clinicians) who consider behaviourism to be the grand unified theory of human psychology, I’ve never met one who labelled themselves as ‘Freudian’.

    @neodarwinian “but psychology is not a science yet, it still is a social science”

    ‘Psychology’ alone is far too wide a term to make that statement. In terms of research funding, the bulk nowadays goes to experimental cognitive psychology and multidisciplinary efforts in which psychologists employ molecular genetics, brain scanning, electrophysiology, psychophysics etc

  7. I don’t know the term dates of the academic year in Oz, but if you were in the UK you would be in the middle of summer holiday between 2nd and 3rd year, with 2 months holiday to go.

    In the UK situation may I suggest a two month personal project “What is the scientific evidence for Freud’s hypotheses?” Armed with that background, gently, but persistently, question your lecturers about evidence and scientific validity. You will learn a lot however it goes.

    If you have already started your 3rd year then you don’t have the time. Concentrate on getting as good a degree as possible. Shooting down Freud can wait until after graduation.

  8. In some previous comments we’ve been talking about social sciences in general and how until recently biology and the social sciences haven’t played well together. Just wanted to point out a current article on the scientific study of religion is IMO an excellent example of good science. I haven’t made it that far into the video yet but so far his introduction is excellent. Nothing I didn’t know but I really like the way he is framing the issues. Its this article:

    http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/7/31/prof-craig-palmer-portrayals-of-holocaust-rescue-and-the-puzzle-of-human-altruism

  9. He defined the Id, ego and super-ego. The first to put a real plausible structural model on the psyche. These concepts make sense to me.

    Many see Aristotle as the first ‘scientist’ and he spoke about 4 elements air, earth, fire, and water.

    Freud didn’t know anything about modern neurobiology just as aristotle didn’t know anything about chemical elements or natural laws concerning gravity , electro magnetism , etc.

    I see your point in some respects but we still have the modern structural models (Erickson’s and maslow’s) posited as a means for dealing with abnormal psychology. So it’s not just Freud.

    Many of the models even the ‘modern’ ones makes claims that are not accurate in light of neurobiology. I would say to you its about wider education and informing your perspective.

    • In reply to #18 by Pauly01:

      He defined the Id, ego and super-ego. The first to put a real plausible structural model on the psyche. These concepts make sense to me. Many see Aristotle as the first ‘scientist’ and he spoke about 4 elements air, earth, fire, and water.

      That comment really sums up the issue and why this topic gets me kind of worked up. Would anyone think it makes sense to go into a physics course and start asking the teacher to stop talking about Newton’s laws of motion and first give the class an overview of the four elements because the four elements “make sense” to the student? Of course not.

    • In reply to #18 by Pauly01:

      He defined the Id, ego and super-ego. The first to put a real plausible structural model on the psyche. These concepts make sense to me.

      Many see Aristotle as the first ‘scientist’ and he spoke about 4 elements air, earth, fire, and water.

      Freud didn’t know anything about modern neurobiology just…

      I agree, however maslow and erikson are not regurgitated in every subject I have.

  10. Is this a case of teachers just being lazy or is there educational value in Freud’s theories?

    If you wish to move into the field of psychoanalysis (andor psychotherapy), he’s still an integral part of the coursework. And in terms of the history of psychology.

    However, in the current climate, more time should be spent on the cognitive, neurophysiology, and developmental aspects which are founded upon the latest peer-reviewed research.

    • In reply to #19 by Tyler Durden:

      Is this a case of teachers just being lazy or is there educational value in Freud’s theories?

      If you wish to move into the field of psychoanalysis (andor psychotherapy), he’s still an integral part of the coursework. And in terms of the history of psychology.

      Someone mentioned Trivers book earlier. Before reading his book I was always on the fence as to whether seeing a therapist could have a scientific justification. Trivers convinced me it could for two reasons. First, he presented solid data that talking about traumatic events results in decreased stress and anxiety over them. Second, the whole model he presents shows why as humans we are BS generators and a lot of the BS gets fed right back to us. I.e., in many ways we are just wired to deceive ourselves. And one of the best ways to realize when you are BSing yourself is to have someone you talk to with no pretensions about wanting them to like or have sex with you and that is one of the things a therapist can do. Its why I see one once in a while, just sitting and verbalizing some of the things I obsess over out loud in front of another human makes me realize things I wouldn’t ordinarily.

      So I believe in therapy. But having a therapist who is schooled in pseudoscience, which is what Freud is, is pointless. You can get as much value by talking to an astrologer. And btw, that isn’t meant sarcastically, I think in both cases you can get a lot of value talking to either a good Freudian or a good Astrologer. A lot of what makes a therapist good are just good listening and reflection skills and an astrologer might have those as much as a Freudian but if they do in both cases it has little to do with the pseudoscience.

      • In reply to #20 by Red Dog:

        I’m no fan of Freud, having had to read (endure) him for my psychology degree. My time would’ve been better spent reading Sacks, Pinker or Gazzaniga. (I actually read quite a bit of Pinker prior to my exams on Lacan, as I needed a basis in reality, as opposed to Lacan’s fantasy!).

        If people do wish to practice psychoanalysis, Freud is required reading.

        • In reply to #22 by Tyler Durden:

          If people do wish to practice psychoanalysis, Freud is required reading

          We need to be clear on our terms. If by “psychoanalysis” you mean (as many people still do) “Freudian psychoanalysis” then that is just a tautology. If by psychoanalysis you mean clinical psychology that includes treating people with therapies that include one on one and group talking sessions then I absolutely disagree. I mean you may be right that due to the existing mind sets and requirements to get the requisite degrees you need to study Freud. I don’t have enough current experience to really say. You may be right that its impossible to get such a degree and not study Freud in depth and my point is that is part of the problem, that Freud is pseudoscience and that all psychology including clinical psychology should be based on science.

          Also, if by “required reading” you mean everyone should at least be familiar from a historical perspective, I agree with that as well, and that for a clinical psychologist the historical background is more relevant than someone just doing research, if nothing else because it is still so prevalent. But as I said I strongly disagree that its “required reading” for a psych therapist the way Dawkins is required reading for a medical student.

  11. In my experience, there’s a huge diversity of approach in psychology courses, which I suspect reflects a diversity of opinion about what constitutes legitimate psychology.

    At one extreme is a biologically-uninformed, non-experimental approach, where pretty much anything goes, and I think Freud falls into that camp. Somewhere in the middle is experimental psychology, that is scientific, but misses out on the huge benefits of seeing the human brain as an evolved mechanism. At the far end of the continuum is the scientifically rigorous, evolutionarily informed approaches of researchers like John Tooby, Leda Cosmides, Steven Pinker, etc

    Hopefully the growth of evolutionary psychology in recent years will continue, but yes it is astonishing to find recent psychology textbooks that don’t even contain the word ‘evolution’ in the index.

    • In reply to #21 by bw99:

      In my experience, there’s a huge diversity of approach in psychology courses, which I suspect reflects a diversity of opinion about what constitutes legitimate psychology.

      At one extreme is a biologically-uninformed, non-experimental approach, where pretty much anything goes, and I think Freud fall…

      I agree there is a diversity of opinion. And some of it is just wrong. Any approach that thinks you can study human behavior and ignore evolutionary and biological explanations is just wrong. I’m not even going to go into all the reasons because I would hope for most of the people reading this its just obvious.

      Somewhere in the middle is experimental psychology, that is scientific, but misses out on the huge benefits of seeing the human brain as an evolved mechanism.

      I don’t know what you mean here. Can you give an example of experimental psychology that you think is valid science but somehow has a model that ignores or contradicts the hypothesis that the brain evolved just like all the other organs?

      If you mean that there are plenty of experiments in the social sciences that don’t directly relate to biological or evolutionary causes, memes, and things like that for example, I will concede that point but IMO any theories like that still want and need to be reconciled with an evolutionary explanation. So for example if some meme researcher wrote a paper and someone criticized it as being wrong because there was no way the meme could work because it contradicts reciprocal altruism. It would be a reasonable response to say “well in this case memes are stronger than reciprocal altruism for this reason…” It wouldn’t be a reasonable response to say “well I just ignore things like reciprocal altruism because that’s biology and I’m doing psychology”

      • In reply to #24 by Red Dog:

        Somewhere in the middle is experimental psychology, that is scientific, but misses out on the huge benefits of seeing the human brain as an evolved mechanism.

        I don’t know what you mean here. Can you give an example of experimental psychology that you think is valid science but somehow has a model that ignores or contradicts the hypothesis that the brain evolved just like all the other organs?

        What I’m trying to say (apparently not clearly) is that there is plenty of psychology that at least purports to follow a scientific method, but which is hobbled by not taking hints from evolutionary theory into account. There are huge problems in many areas of psychology at the moment due to the unreplicability of results. For example, a nature.com article on the subject: http://www.nature.com/news/replication-studies-bad-copy-1.10634

        My suspicion is that the unreplicability is in part due to publication bias, and part due to the fact that many psychology researchers do not seem to take the inspiration for their hypotheses from evolutionary theory. As a result, there is no particular reason why the effects they research should exist or be robust. A good example as a contrast is the extremely robust, evolution-inspired work of Cosmides and Tooby on the Wason selection task for investigating a hypothesized cheater detection module: http://www.cep.ucsb.edu/primer.html (about 3/4 of the way down – sorry, a bit rushed, cannot find a better link..)

        In summary – my middle category is experimental psychology that seems ‘scientific’ but is substandard because it ignores evolution. Hope that clarifies.

        • In reply to #25 by bw99:

          What I’m trying to say (apparently not clearly) is that there is plenty of psychology that at least purports to follow a scientific method, but which is hobbled by not taking hints from evolutionary theory into account.

          Sorry I was dense and didn’t realize that at first. We agree completely.

  12. Here in Argentina, is not just that Freud (and Lacan) are taught as a natural and valid approach to psychology, but its analysis is also presented as an alternative to “behavioral” (conductista) psychology treatments, that are supposedly taught in the USA by pragmatics psychologists and by evil psychiatrists that only are interested in filling your body with artificial pills.

  13. When my partner took counselling in university it was taught mostly as historical with some components still being seen as relevant. I do believe there are many psychiatrist who still hold to some of the ideas of Freud but ignore some of the more ‘silly’ aspects. I don’t think ‘everything’ Freud came up with has been discredited. It’s mostly his methods that have been.

    I’m not expert but I’ve seen read some things and seen shows and other bits. He’s still highly regarded, whether you like him or loath him.

    • In reply to #28 by Nick LaRue:

      I don’t think ‘everything’ Freud came up with has been discredited. It’s mostly his methods that have been.

      The idea of talk therapy (‘the talking cure’) as a form of one-to-one counseling was Freud’s primary method (as borrowed from Breuer).

  14. Can’t reply the way I usually would reply. So you might not get an email on this.

    Anyway you can not quantify matters of experience and conciousness like you would as per Newtonian equations. It is not materialistic in that sense.

    Psychology is perspective driven , some what like philosophy and it can not be fully defined in a logical or computational way. It is objectionable by its nature.

    So freud offers a perspective and he was of his time.

    So does every psychological perspective have to be ‘logical’ , as you define it , in order to have therapeutic merit. There are paradoxical therapies for example that have proved advantageous.

    In reply to #29 by Reddog:

    That comment really sums up the issue and why this topic gets me kind of worked up. Would anyone think it makes sense to go >> into a physics course and start asking the teacher to stop talking about Newton’s laws of motion and first give the class an overview >> of the four elements because the four elements “make sense” to the student? Of course not.

    • In reply to #33 by Pauly01:

      Anyway you can not quantify matters of experience and conciousness like you would as per Newtonian equations. It is not materialistic in that sense.

      Psychology is perspective driven , some what like philosophy and it…

      I’m glad you said that because I fundamentally disagree and like the person who brought up the four elements you are helping to get to the key thing that I object to. Your idea is essentially saying that psychology and science are “non overlapping magisteria” Just as people like Gould say you can’t apply scientific reasoning to religious questions you seem to be saying they can’t be applied to psychological questions. And I could not disagree more.

      This is a case where the burden of proof is on you not me. Why should we assume there is something about human cognition and behavior that are fundamentally different from the rest of the universe? In fact the history of science is one of us realizing that things we thought were so special and unique about humans turn out not to be so special and unique after all. The earth isn’t the center of the universe or even the solar system. Humans weren’t some special being modelled after the creator of the universe, they evolved just like all the other animals. And while theories of psychology based on unmeasurable concepts like id and superego have essentially made no progress there has been enormous progress in theories based on neurology and techniques like game theory which can model animal behavior as well as economic models.

      The whole question of materialism is a separate question. Some people who comment here have an extreme materialistic view that I think is actually outside the norm. A lot of the work I’m talking about is not materialism in that sense, I’m a computer scientist but I almost never talk about the actual physical hardware, its always about conceptual abstractions and similar kinds of abstractions such as language, state transition models, game theoretic models, play a big role in psychology and will play a bigger role in the future but the whole question of materialism is separate, the basic issue is that I see no justification for excluding psychology from the same scientific rigor and requirements as the other sciences and I maintain its your responsibility to demonstrate that because on the surface there is no good reason to accept it.

  15. I did an undergraduate in psychology and a masters in research methods in psychology. These courses were in separate UK universities. We only had a few Freud lectures (maybe about 4) in the first year history component. I think there was some Freud in the third year counselling material, but I didn’t choose that module. I think this is how it should be; Freud did have a large impact on the formation of the field, but is irrelevant to the forefront of research today. My A-level psychology, however, was at least 25% Freud stuff – I recognised it as irrelevant even then.

    I focus on bio-cog stuff (EEG and soon-to-be f-MRI), and Freud is a complete non-topic, unless the topic is humour…

  16. “Why should we assume there is something about human cognition and behavior that are fundamentally different from the rest of the universe”

    We don’t assume ,

    it is. :). No woo intended. Don’t bother replying on this point I’m not up for a philosophical discussion. :)

    • Here is an excellent fairly recent talk by Chomsky on the whole question of materialism. I actually love the way he looks at this, essentially he starts by talking about the rather standard notion (more or less the argument Pauly was making) that materialism can’t account for human behavior and he says that its clearly wrong but not for the reason people might think, because he thinks materialism can’t even account for physics so why should we expect it to work for psychology (he may talk more about linguistics but all the arguments apply to both). A lot of what he says about reduction vs reconciliation in the sciences is directly relevant to the issues here about whether psychology can be scientific and whether a theory of psychology must be compatible with what we know about human evolution.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5in5EdjhD0

  17. I believe the entire field would benefit from a requirement for credits in math or formal logic. Allow me to tell a little story which illustrates my point:

    I remember sitting a first year psych exam at a major university which consisted of 100 multiple choice questions, the final 20 of which consisted of two sets of 20 questions. The first set were to be answered if you were taking the exam for the first time and the second if you were retaking it. It struck me as interesting that both sets were numbered the same and that there was nowhere to indicate on the answer sheet which set was being answered. I answered both sets of questions and my answers largely correlated, going over them again it was much easier to spot my mistakes. So, by simple deductive elimination I was able to reverse engineer 20% of the exam! It was a singularly depressing experience, I do not appreciate being made to feel like a cheat simply because I am capable of thinking logically.

    • In reply to #37 by Peter Grant:

      I believe the entire field would benefit from a requirement for credits in math or formal logic.

      Peter, my degree entailed credits in both informal logic (Walton) and inferential statistics.

      • In reply to #39 by Tyler Durden:

        Peter, my degree entailed credits in both informal logic (Walton) and inferential statistics.

        Good for you! Whoever set up my exam seemed to have skipped those courses.

  18. In reply to #40 by Smill:

    In reply to Peter Grant, post 37. ‘Elementary, my dear Watson!’. But I certainly don’t consider it’s cheating.

    Me either, but that’s because I’m a high-functioning sociopath! It still feels like cheating though :(

  19. In reply to #44 by Smill:

    In reply to Peter Grant, post 43. Have you considered it may be more to do with your ‘inner parent’? If you lie down on that couch over there, we could talk about it…

    Nah, it has more to do with my disgust at the system. No parents could ever possibly live up to my expectations, I actually feel sorry for them.

  20. In reply to #46 by Smill:

    In reply to Peter Grant, post 45. It works for me to call my parents by their first names, as ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ are loaded terms.

    Fuck that shit!

    I don’t know what you mean by ‘the system’.

    By “the system”, I mean that which we are subject to. As in, psychology professors who cannot reason logically!

    • Do these last exchanges mean Freud still has something to offer re Anal stage?
      For whatever it may contribute, here’s a famous Spanish Civil War joke:

      Optimist ” There’s shit for lunch”.

      Pessimist “Yes, and there won’t be enough”.

      Shall we return to the OP?
      n reply to #49 by Peter Grant:*

      In reply to #48 by Smill:

      In reply to Peter Grant, post 47. Agreed! It is shit. : )

      Yeah, but not all of it. That’s the problem!

  21. This reference went right over my head unless you’re referring to the Robert Wilson/Tom Waits UCLA production of Woyzeck which ran at the Freud Theatre in 2002/3 in which case congrats on a really esoteric reference – meaning?In reply to #50 by Smill:*

    In reply to Peter Grant, post 49. Well, Sherlock, there’s a point of view that suggests just having a conversation with a supportive friend is as beneficial as any ‘talking therapy’, and as you have pointed out by referring to ‘the system’, people have real problems that therapy can’t solve. Coul…

    • In reply to #53 by jburnforti:

      This reference went right over my head unless you’re referring to the Robert Wilson/Tom Waits UCLA production of Woyzeck which ran at the Freud Theatre in 2002/3 in which case congrats on a really esoteric reference – meaning?In reply to #50 by Smill:*

      In reply to Peter Grant, post 49. Well, Sherl…

      Woyzeck is also an Opera by Albon Berg, that is what I thought the reference was to, also a film by Werner Herzog.

  22. Thanks, I knew of the play and opera but didn’t understand what the reference was intended to question or explain. That was what went over my head.In reply to #55 by Smill:*

    It’s a play, by Buchner. About a soldier whose impoverishment destroys him.

    Or, rather, it’s about a soldier who eats a lot of peas becomes insane and kills his ‘wife’.

  23. Bellap,

    I was trained by Dr Leonardo Rodriguez, the internationally renowned President of the Australian Centre for Psychoanalysis.

    You remind me of a mathematical prodigy friend in school who was frustrated at how poorly our school was being run. He was infuriated that footy, swimming and cricket intruded. Stupid! And painting, reading and writing were silly. Worse still, these subjects continued into secondary/high school.

    The wise advice which Pauly, Tyler Durdin and others have furnished hasn’t resonated with you yet. Anyhow, the primary school maths wiz became a priest.

    • In reply to #62 by Len Walsh:

      Bellap,

      I was trained by Dr Leonardo Rodriguez, the internationally renowned President of the Australian Centre for Psychoanalysis.

      You remind me of a mathematical prodigy friend in school who was frustrated at how poorly our school was being run. He was infuriated that footy, swimming and cricket…
      LOL, what an interesting friend you have :) I disagree however, creative subjects are an important part of the curriculum. It allows self expression, which is vital to one’s learning and cognitive development. Sports are also important in developing confidence and a sense of achievement, however they should not be forced upon students who do not wish to participate.

      • In reply to #66 by bellap:

        In reply to #62 by Len Walsh:

        Bellap,

        I was trained by Dr Leonardo Rodriguez, the internationally renowned President of the Australian Centre for Psychoanalysis.

        You remind me of a mathematical prodigy friend in school who was frustrated at how poorly our school was being run. He was infuriated t…
        Always challenge the establishment no matter what the cost!

  24. A Freudian is a kind of religious adherent. That should explain things for you.Align yourself with the cigar, stroke that beard lovingly. Your very own beard, of course.

    On a more serious note:

    Two psychologists were riding the subway to work, idly discussing Freudian Slips. Says one t’other, “Yes, I know just what you mean. Why, just this morning at breakfast, I sincerely meant to ask my wife to “please pass the butter,” but instead it came out, “You’ve ruined my life, you bitch!”

    • In reply to #64 by margana:

      A Freudian is a kind of religious adherent. That should explain things for you.Align yourself with the cigar, stroke that beard lovingly. Your very own beard, of course.

      On a more serious note:

      Two psychologists were riding the subway to work, idly discussing Freudian Slips. Says one t’other, “Yes…

      :P

      • Just talked to a counselor the other day who still uses Jungian Archetypes. Incredible! Oh that we would realise that no human belongs in any other human head like that.

        In reply to #70 by bellap:

        In reply to #64 by margana:

        A Freudian is a kind of religious adherent. That should explain things for you.Align yourself with the cigar, stroke that beard lovingly. Your very own beard, of course.

        On a more serious note:

        Two psychologists were riding the subway to work, idly discussing Freudian…

  25. In reply to #63 by Smill:

    In reply to Len Walsh, post 62. You may be a little biased in your opinion. The anecdote was nice though! People who challenge their education end up in the priesthood.
    Indeed!

  26. It might depend on exactly what aspects of Freud’s ideas are being discussed.

    Historically Freud is relevant because he was quite innovative in a time when there wasn’t much reliable information available. But what inevitably turned out to be crap has tainted some of the rest. Also keep in mind that theories in complex emergent fields like psychology can seldom be clearly falsified. So they will always retain some justification to keep them on the books. If only because the doubtful theories can seldom be made sufficiently clear and explicit.

    E.g. He was among the first to take ‘unconscious’ mental processes as being real or relevant. His theory that the self was a consequence of mental activities powered by energy was regarded as ludicrous in its time, but this may become increasingly relevant again. Now it is generally accepted that some problems with the mind can be a consequence of disruptions to the energy supply feeding various mental processes. Alzheimer’s for example.

    I’ve had experience with ‘hitting the wall’ aka ‘bonking’ in various situations. It can be an interesting experience. And I think that many of the unnecessary deaths that have been associated with hypothermia or physical injury during endurance sports may really be a primary consequence of energy disruption affecting thought processes, with the subsequent death by things like drowning, falls, or exposure involving hypothermia being the secondary cause of actual death.

    Another thing in favour of Freud is that people may have literally thought differently in Freud’s time. People today are significantly decivilised (measurably much higher time preference) compared to the 19th century, plus they have much less self-control. E.g. There wasn’t much in the way of horse and buggy rage back then, as compared to our more familiar concept of road rage.

    It might be worth investigating why Freud’s approach may have been significantly more successful in past eras than today. It could be a flawed assumption that people are really the same today as in Freud’s time. (At least those that could afford psychoanalysis.). i.e. Before WW1, Great Depression 1, WW2 etc. and the collapse of western religion commencing immediately post WW2.

    Plus I strongly agree with Red Dog: Getting stuff out there and capable of being determined as clearly wrong is as much a step forward in science as any so-called ‘breakthrough’. It’s the other side of the coin and a kind of a ‘break-back’ in a sense. Shows those that follow the difference between the mines and the safe path.

    It’s also useful to occasionally look at the historical context of things in the sense of how everyone used to think this stuff, smoke cigars, wear hats and facial hair etc. Might help people realise that there’s other stuff going on right now that almost everyone thinks is normal and sensible.

    • In reply to #71 by Pete H:

      It might be worth investigating why Freud’s approach may have been significantly more successful in past eras than today. It could be a flawed assumption that people are really the same today as in Freud’s time.

      I don’t agree that there is any evidence Freud ever worked better than a placebo. The reason he seemed to “work” at first is because he was one of the first people to treat problems of the mind as illness. If you read some of his own case studies, and I do give him credit he was pretty honest from what I remember in presenting the results, he had a terrible track record with patients. They would relapse and get worse regularly. Not that things are all that much better now. It was one of many reasons I didn’t last long working in a psych hospital. Patients would seem to get better and then six months or so later they would be right back in the same shape as they had been when they checked in the previous times.

      But back to the point, I haven’t seen any evidence at all that Freudianism worked better in the past than it does now. I think any perception that it does is just driven by the fact that for a while Freud was so in vogue with western intellectuals (even more among non-science intellectuals) and people just assumed Freudian therapists knew what they were doing.

      What’s more, while I wouldn’t automatically rule out any theory of cognition and mental disorders that was strongly coupled to a particular time frame I would immediately be more skeptical of such a theory as it would go against the norm for science in any other domain.

      • One of the ways people might be been somewhat different in Freud’s time could be that some were likely trained from childhood to behave differently, which must have had an impact on their thinking. Probably not relevant to the normal, or reasonable, person. (As in the saying that a reasonable person adapts to his circumstances, therefore all progress depends on unreasonable people.) The underlying idea being that western civilisation would likely collapse if not for the exercise of willpower and self-discipline by those among the aristocracy attending the right kind of school and possessing stiff upper lips etc.

        Given the extent of the practise of humiliation as an aid to learning, plus child molestation in religious or boarding schools in previous eras, it might also be reasonable to expect many educated people, in an era where education wasn’t particularly universal, may have been unusually hierarchically or sexually oriented, with all the associated shame and humiliation and false pretences that are almost synonymous with the mystique of Freudian ideas.

        Examples of how people may have trained themselves to think differently in the past, which might have generated solutions or problems involving mental habits that may no longer be as relevant today:

        1. Educational practises – memorising long tracts of poetry or musical passages. Now believed to have contributed to expanding the ability of people to process ideas and concepts that involve relatively long sentence structures. In contrast to the Orwellian idea of simplifying language to constrain people’s ability to think and criticise the government. Modern equivalent is twitter – barely adequate to criticise celebrity entertainers let alone political leadership.
        2. Educational specialisation – the idea of devoting years of study to some peculiar aspect of history, art, or literature. Seemingly useless knowledge, but the outcome of the process being an acutely developed capability to research and get to the bottom of any issue.
        3. Strange rituals and self-discipline. Legacy examples being ridiculous items of clothing. The entire purpose being to make life difficult. E.g. Ironing, special cleaning, expensive but fragile materials. Or the idea of rude words or practises: like words that must never be spoken, yet everyone knows them and nearly uses them all the time. The existence or definition of these words as ‘rude’ being a means of setting traps for people to easily fall into, for which they must continually exercise self-control and discipline to avoid (otherwise their inadvertent use of rude words revealing their lack of whatever it takes, and therefore unfit for civilised society).

        In reply to #72 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #71 by Pete H:

        It might be worth investigating why Freud’s approach may have been significantly more successful in past eras than today. It could be a flawed assumption that people are really the same today as in Freud’s time.

        I don’t agree that there is any evidence Freud ever worked…

  27. I have a question for bellap. What kind of discussion of empirical validation have your Freudian proponents gone into? E.g., double blind experiments. One reason I ask is that there are some excellent studies I’ve found (usually posted by other users on this site) on homeopathy and acupuncture that debunk them. I’m talking about overview work where some researcher collects a bunch of past experiments and summarizes general conclusions. In both cases I remember some very reputable work by people who didn’t seem to have an axe to grind and showed that when you look at all the data there is essentially no convincing evidence that homeopathy or acupuncture work better than a placebo.

    But I tried finding that kind of an overview of Freudian therapy and couldn’t. I think one problem is that in the case of therapy they all may get most of their benefit from something like the placebo effect. I.e., our current theoretical models of the mind are so immature that they really aren’t of much practical benefit to clinicians and how good a therapist is really comes down to listening skills and their overall personality. Also, there are some general heuristics (e.g. reflect back what the patient says to you) that are beneficial and that all therapists Freudian or not will learn.

  28. Smill #63, much obliged, thanks.

    I expect I’m no more biased than you. It’s both natural and necessary I think. Enjoy your comments in any case.

    Our primary school’s curriculum also included compulsory religion (Catechism really) which didn’t appeal to either of us. Our friendship stemmed from a shared passion for planes, so his arithmetic talent seemed to help him, while I enjoyed technical subjects leading eventually to a science speciality. Neither of us regrets learning about religion early on. In his case he’s made an easy clerical living without the necessity to get a job. Ever. In my case it gave me a head start attempting to appreciate religion and ponder potential cures.

    The only plan (humble opinion) with any appreciable merit is primary education on how to think. Critical thinking including Robert Sapolsky, Dawkins, Dennett and Andy Thomson every year, age appropriate of course. Final year students could enjoy access to Dara O’Briain and Jim Jeffries, as a treat, instead of fortified religion.

  29. In reply to Bellap #66,

    “I disagree however” Excellent start that.

    Your recognition of why the boy who understood arithmetic was in error for criticizing the curriculum bodes well for your gaining insight as to why an undergraduate might not fully appreciate a tertiary curriculum.
    That’s progress ;D

    Did you know that most psychology undergraduates abandon the ‘discipline/profession’ with a degree which hooks them an array of jobs in management and commerce, advertising or even education? In Oz psychoanalysis is a fringe speciality. IIRC it was Leonardo Rodriguez himself who told me psychoanalysis was largely restricted to the US and therapeutic practice tended to be conducted between fellow psychiatrists, often themselves practicing psychoanalysts. A perpetual, circular motion machine of sorts. Plus a veritable industry serving lucrative celebrities needing analysts for entire families. Dunno if that’s true.

    Freud’s theories however, are concluded to be useful educationally, despite Freudian psychoanalysis being essentially a tiny niche of evolved, perversely attractive anachronistic crap. Just like footy and cricket when you think about it. By the time you’ve specialized for a while you can better reflect on why such basic ideas were included in curricula. That’s all I’m suggesting.

    I started reading Pinker towards the end of my Freud unit.

    Reconsider the excellent posts #18 and #19 and Zeuglodon’s #5 I reckon. Oh, and ensure you obtain a double major in statistics as well. Otherwise… nah, never mind. Good luck mate.

  30. Every field teaches some of the history. The field of psychiatry did not even exist prior to Freud. Psychiatry still thinks in terms of schools rather than objective knowledge. Some years ago I went to see a Cogitive Emotive Therapist. It suited me to a tee. Most of the work was performing experiments. Every week another major problem cleared up. One day I went and they said the therapist had died, some sort of brain problem. Freud figured it would take a lifetime to get results.

    • In reply to #77 by Roedy:

      Every field teaches some of the history. The field of psychiatry did not even exist prior to Freud. Psychiatry still thinks in terms of schools rather than objective knowledge. Some years ago I went to see a Cogitive Emotive Therapist. It suited me to a tee. Most of the work was performing experim…

      I don’t recall anyone saying Freud shouldn’t be taught for historical purposes. I’ve been the biggest loudmouth on this topic and I’ve said several times I admire Freud as an intellectual and absolutely agree all psych students should read him for historical background and that goes even more so for those interested in clinical psych.

      Its the issue of presenting his theories as if they deserve to be treated seriously as theories. Doing that only makes sense if you believe that somehow psychology exists in some non-overlapping magisteria that can be understood using a different approach than science. And some people do think that. And they are wrong, IMO and not maybe wrong or “I think they are wrong but everyone is entitled to their opinion” but just wrong. Its actually a very harmful and backward thing to think that humans are somehow different than the rest of the natural world. Its a mind set that we inherited from the same place we got religion and it deserves the same fate.

  31. I live in Argentina, and you would not believe how strong the psychoanalysis is here, despite all the new evidence showing higher efficacy of other therapies. Actually, it is pretty difficult to find a phsycologist who is NOT a psychoanalist here, since the main psychology schools adhere to Freud and Lacan’s concepts. I find that very hard to understand, besides the fact that the psychoanalysis moves lots of money in terms of private practice.

  32. This is not usually the case in the US. I went to grad school in Social Work and Freud was mentioned only as someone to be vilified – not for being unscientific, which he was by today’s standards, but because of his representation of women.

    The biggest problem by far I encounter with students, though, is their postmodern bias against science and empiricism as “phallo-logo-hegemonic” – a view their Boomer professors exuberantly embrace. You’ll find a lot more Foucault and Derrida in psych today than Frued, at least in the programs I’ve been associated with. What a mess.

  33. It’s purely a financial consideration. I came across the same thing when reading physics. What happens is that things are changing all the time. Every time a new law is discovered, or changed it is simply impossible to change every single book in existence, sweep out libraries and start again. So what you get at University and school is something which may not necessarily be strictly correct.
    The stupidity is nobody tells you this when you turn up at university.

  34. I don’t know why though most of you think there is no value to the out of date stuff. THINK! THINK! What do you get from this? What you get is that Freud, though not right, filled the gap for a while. That he was only human and that anyone has the right and ability to think and talk about any subject they want. It shows us also that science is just another part of evolution. This is good. So don’t complain.. The very fact Freud is wrong has given you the voice to stand up and be counted. It don’t get much better than that!!!

  35. It may surprise you that today some of the most famous neuroscientists argue that psychoanalysis still represents the most satisfying view of the mind. In the last decades Freud has been discarded from a scientific point of view but today he returns to neuroscience. Read some papers by Mark Solms or check the Neuropsychoanalysis society website. Take for example the Freudian structural model of the psyche. Here you have the idea of a dynamic relationship between contrasting forces within the mind. While the id seeks hedonistic pleasure, the ego and the superego try to control and inhibit impulsive behavior. The idea of this dynamism is today central to neuroscience. Here the prefrontal cortex assumes the role of the control centre which inhibits lower impulses originating in subcortical areas of the brain. This is what neuropsychoanalysis is about.

  36. I finished up my masters in Clinical Psychology about 2 years ago. The only place Freud showed up was in the personality theories and in the human sexuality class and there he was only used as a point of reference. I know in some universities and curriculum’s his and Jung’s works are still a major point. But for the more serious schools they are only used as references as to what happened in the past and how the field has evolved.

  37. I was taught Freudian theory in an historical context and as the founder of psychoanalysis he is a key figure. Playing ‘devils advocate’ I once took the Freudian side in a debate because I knew that using Freud I could shut down the argument of the other side. The other side got so frustrated that the debate ended in violence when the only response the non-freudians could find was to kick me. So the point is if you really really want to annoy someone chose Freud.

  38. In reply to #14 by Red Dog:

    In some previous comments we’ve been talking about social sciences in general and how until recently biology and the social sciences haven’t played well together. Just wanted to point out a current article on the scientific study of religion is IMO an excellent example of good science. I haven’t mad…

    I can really say I was baffled and mind-fucked about the Machevallian theory relating to the holocaust, but I couldn’t grasp the last theory the described. We’re they both in essential about lying and deciving but with different aspects practical?
    Maybe I’m being off-topic now asking about this.

  39. In reply to #88 by jonathan85:

    I can really say I was baffled and mind-fucked about the Machevallian theory relating to the holocaust,

    I had the same reaction. For what it’s worth in the reading that I’ve done, which of course is a drop in the bucket I’m sure to what Palmer has done, but in my experience I had never heard the Machiavellian analysis for altruism. I think it’s more a fringe theory compared to some of the others such as group selection.

    The Machiavellian analysis is a good example of why it’s difficult to look at things like ethics objectively. Most of us just don’t want it to be true, we want something more noble or uplifting to be the reason for altruism.

    but I couldn’t grasp the last theory the described. We’re they both in essential about lying and deciving but with different aspects practical?

    I’m not sure which you are referring to when you say “last theory”, it’s been a while since I watched the video. One thing to keep in mind though is that for all these theories you have to distinguish between conscious and unconscious motivations.

    The Machiavellian theory for example was that people praise altruistic behavior because the results of more altruism are good for them. That doesn’t mean people consciously think “well these people are suckers but I’ll encourage them to be suckers because it’s good for me”, according to the theory it all happens at an unconscious level, the theory is trying to explain why as a species we have certain tendencies such as the tendency to praise altruism and that’s where the Machiavellian analysis comes in but if that analysis is correct it’s describing why our genes give us the tendency to feel that way (similar to the fact that our genes also make us crave sugar and fat) it’s not claiming that people typically make conscious analysis in a Machiavellian way.

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