Freud widely taught, except in psychology departments

The New York Times discusses an upcoming study that has found that Freud and psychoanalysis form a key part of the teaching in the humanities, while being virtually extinct in psychology departments in the same universities.

As some of the psychologists in the article suggest, many of the problems with psychoanalysis are because those who believe in the theories have been reluctant to submit the ideas to rigorous empirical testing.

Where this has been done, the results have been fascinating. As we reported in June, empirical work has supported some of Freud’s ideas on transference (how feelings from one relationship can affect another if the two people share similarities).

Moreover, an upcoming London conference aims to get the hard nosed cognitive and neuroscientists talking to the psychoanalysts to thrash out ways of separating the wheat from the chaff and to inspire research with new ideas.

These are largely the exceptions, however, and more often than not, psychoanalysis has continued developing its ideas without much recourse to outside testing.

Psychology now runs on the mantra of ‘evidence-based practice’, which has meant the science-flimsy Freudian ideas have been largely rejected.

However, subjects like film, literature and history have no such restrictions and have found psychoanalysis a useful discussion point.

Interestingly, there are some moves to introduce cultural analysis based on cognitive science into these subjects.

Buckland’s book The Film Spectator: From Sign to Mind (ISBN 9053561315) investigates whether its possible to understand how we interpret film using cognitive linguistics and the science of perception.

Link to NYT article ‘Freud Is Widely Taught at Universities, Except in the Psychology Department’.

2 thoughts on “Freud widely taught, except in psychology departments”

  1. Other reasons for the teaching of freud in the humanities
    a) it’s cheap — all you need to analyse a book is some time. Analysing a person requires consent, and expensive training, and the expectation that you’ll provide what you promise, or at least do no harm
    b) mainstream psychology is far less loose, discourse-wise. There is a mainstream (evidence-based, cognitivist) which squeezes out other approaches. Humanities have more capacity (even a need?) for comparing and contrasting different approaches perhaps.

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