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Title:The Effects Of Subliminal Aggressive And "merging" Stimuli On The Cognitive Functioning Of Schizophrenics: A Failure Of Silverman's Subliminal Psychodynamic Activation
Author(s):Porterfield, Albert Leroy
Department / Program:Psychology
Discipline:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Psychology, Clinical
Abstract:Lloyd H. Silverman has developed a technique for investigating psychoanalytic hypotheses about the role of unconscious fantasies in various forms of psychopathology. The technique, known as subliminal psychodynamic activation, involves the tachistoscopic presentation of drive-related stimuli at exposures so brief as to preclude their conscious recognition by the subject. A variety of objective and projective tests is then used to assess the stimuli's impact on the subject. On the basis of one series of such studies, Silverman claims to have demonstrated that subliminal tachistoscopic presentations of stimuli with aggressive content temporarily increase thinking disorder, while stimuli designed to foster fantasies of "symbiotic merging with the mother" temporarily reduce thinking disorder, in schizophrenic subjects. Serious reliability problems, excessive Type-I error rates, and diagnostically heterogeneous subject samples in studies published by Silverman's research group call these claims into question, and published replications by independent investigators are lacking. In the present study, 30 male DSM-III schizophrenics were exposed to an aggressive stimulus (TIGER EATS PERSON), a merging stimulus (MOMMY AND I ARE ONE), and a meaningless lexical stimulus (DMNOA NIM Y ERO EMA), in a within subjects design. The dependent measures of cognitive functioning included thought pathology and form quality, both derived from subjects' responses to a series of inkblots, and performance on the interference task of the Stroop Color-Word Test. Analyses of variance were conducted on simple poststimulation scores, rather than on unreliable change scores as Silverman has done in the past. The ANOVAs revealed no effect of stimulus content. Interactions of stimulus content with subjects' "self-object differentiation" and the temporal position of the assessment tasks also were not found, although they were clearly predicted from Silverman's theoretical framework. This failure to replicate, along with a number of others that have recently appeared in the literature, suggests that Silverman's inconsistent positive findings are an artifact of unreliable measures and overly liberal criteria for statistical significance.
Issue Date:1983
Type:Text
Description:73 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1983.
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/69640
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8410025
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1983


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