The scientific status of Freud's theory is one of the more hotly contested and disputed question in all Freudian theory. Was it science or mere armchair speculation? Did Freud propose testable hypotheses? Are his ideas experimentally verifiable, testable, or falsifiable?
Karl Popper, the philosopher of science who proposed the criterion of falsifia-bility, contrasted Freud's theory with Einstein's and concluded that the former was not falsifiable and therefore not science. It would be fair to say that for much of the 20th century, most academic psychologists dismissed Freudian ideas as fanciful speculations that may have contained insights into human nature but was not science.
During the last 5 to 10 years, the scientific status of Freudian theory lias begun to change, at least among certain circles of cognitive psychologists and neuroscien-tists. Neuroscience is currently experiencing an explosive growth through its investigations of brain activity during a variety of cognitive and emotional tasks. Much of this growth has been due to brain imaging technology afforded by functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that maps regions of the brain that are active during particular tasks. At about the same time, certain groups of cognitive psychologists began doing research on the importance of nonconscious processing of information and memory, or what they called "implicit" cognition. John Bargh, one of the leaders in the field of social-cognitive psychology, reviewed the literature on the "auto-maticity of being" and concluded that roughly 95% of our behaviors are unconsciously determined (Bargh & Chartrand, 1999). This conclusion is completely consistent with Freud's metaphor that consciousness is merely the "tip of the iceberg."
By the late 1990s the findings from neuroscience and cognitive psychology began to converge on many cognitive and affective processes that were very consistent with basic Freudian theory. These commonalties have become the foundation for a movement started by some cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, and psychiatrists who are convinced that Freud's theory is one of the more compelling integrative theories—one that could explain many of these findings. In 1999, a group of scientists began a society called Neuro-Psychoanalysis and a scientific journal by the same name. For the first time, some eminent cognitive and neuroscience psychologists such as Nobel laureate for physiology, Eric Kandel, along with Joseph LeDoux, Antonio Damasio, Daniel Scliacter, and Vilayanur Ramachandran, were publicly declaring the value of Freud's theory and contending that "psychoanalysis is "still the most coherent and intellectually satisfying view of the mind" (as cited in Solms, 2004, p. 84). Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio wrote: "I believe we can say that Freud's insights on the nature of consciousness are consonant with the most advanced contemporary neuroscience views" (as cited in Solms & Turnbull, 2002, p. 93). Twenty years ago, such pronouncements from neuroscientists would have been nearly unthinkable.
Mark Solms is probably the most active person involved in integrating psychoanalytic theory and neuroscientific research (Solms 2000, 2004; Solms & Turn-bull, 2002). He argued, for instance, that the following Freudian concepts have support from modem neuroscience: unconscious motivation, repression, the pleasure principle, primitive drives, and dreams (Solms, 2004). Similarly, Kandel (1999) argued that psychoanalysis and neuroscience together could make useful contributions in these eight domains: the nature of unconscious mental processes; the nature of psychological causality; psychological causality and psychopathology; early experience and the predisposition to mental illness; the preconscious, the unconscious, and the prefrontal cortex; sexual orientation; psychotherapy and structural changes in the brain; and psychophannacology as an adjunct to psychoanalysis.
Although there are some gaps in the evidence (Hobson, 2004), the overlap between Freud's theory and neuroscience is sufficient to make at least a suggestive, if not compelling, case for then integration. We have reviewed some of the empirical evidence for unconscious mental processing, the id and the pleasure principle and the ego and the reality principle, repression and defense mechanisms, and dreams.
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