Theories of Personality 9th Edition

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Chapter 2 Freud: Psychoanalysis 61

partner, or a teammate from college. All of these interpretations were more wish
than reality.
A study by Howard Shevrin and colleagues (Shevrin, Ghannam, & Libet,
2002) examined the neurophysiological underpinnings of repression. More spe-
cifically, they addressed the question of whether people with repressive personality
styles actually require longer periods of stimulation for a brief stimulus to be
consciously perceived. Prior research had established that people in general vary
from 200 ms to 800 ms in how long a stimulus needs to be present before being
consciously perceived. The study by Shevrin et al. included six clinical participants
between the ages of 51 and 70, all of whom years prior had undergone surgical
treatment for motoric problems (mainly parkinsonism). During these surgeries, a
procedure had been performed in which electrodes stimulated parts of the motor
cortex, and the length of time it took for the stimulus to be consciously perceived
was recorded. The results of this procedure showed that these six participants also
ranged from 200 ms to 800 ms in how long they took to consciously perceive the
stimulus. For this, four psychological tests were administered at the patients’ homes
and then scored on their degree of repressive tendencies. These tests were the
Rorschach Inkblot Test, the Early Memories Test, the Vocabulary Test of the
WAIS (an IQ test), and the Hysteroid-Obsessoid Questionnaire. The first three tests
were rated by three “blind” clinical judges on their degree of repression, and the
fourth test was scored objectively for its degree of repression.
The results showed that the combined ratings from the three judges were
significantly and positively associated with the time it took for a stimulus to be
consciously perceived. Moreover, the objectively scored Hysteroid-Obsessoid
Questionnaire confirmed the result. In other words, the more repressive style
people have, the longer it takes them to consciously perceive a stimulus. Neither
age nor IQ is related to the length of time it takes for the stimulus to be per-
ceived. As the authors acknowledge, this finding is but a first step in demonstrat-
ing how repression might operate to keep things out of conscious awareness, but
it is the first study to report the neurophysiological underpinnings of repression.

Research on Dreams

In the 1950s, when the phenomenon of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep was first
discovered and found to be strongly associated with dreaming, many scientists
began to discount Freud’s theory of dreams, which was based on the idea that
dreams have meaning and are attempts at fulfilling unconscious wishes. Moreover,
the REM research showed that only brain-stem regions and not higher cortical
regions were involved with REM states. If these cortical structures were not
involved in REM sleep and yet they were where higher level thinking took place,
then dreams are simply random mental activity and could not have any inherent
meaning. From the perspective of this so-called activation-synthesis theory, mean-
ing is what the waking mind gives to these more or less random brain activities, but
meaning is not inherent in the dream.
Solms’s primary research area is dreams and, based on current dream
research, including his own, he takes issue with each of the assumptions of the
activation- synthesis theory of dreams (Solms, 2000, 2004). Most importantly,

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