Jung was not the first to use the word association test, but he can be credited with helping develop and refine it. He originally used the technique as early as 1903 when he was a young psychiatric assistant at Burgholtzli, and he lectured on the word association test during his trip with Freud to the United States in 1909. However, he seldom employed it in his later career. In spite of this inattention, the test continues to be closely linked with Jungs name.
His original purpose in using the word association test was to demonstrate the validity of Freud's hypothesis that the unconscious operates as an autonomous process. However, the basic purpose of the test in Jungian psychology today is to uncover feeling-toned complexes. As noted in the section of levels of the psyche, a complex is an individualized, emotionally toned conglomeration of images grouped around a central core. The word association test is based on the principle that complexes create measurable emotional responses.
In administering the test, Jung typically used a list of about 100 stimulus words chosen and arranged to elicit an emotional reaction. He instructed the person to respond to each stimulus word with the first word that came to mind. Jung recorded each verbal response, time taken to make a response, rate of breathing, and galvanic skin response. Usually, he would repeat the experiment to determine test-retest consistency.
Certahi types of reactions indicate that the sthnulus word has touched a complex. Critical responses include restricted breathing, changes in the electrical conductivity of the skhi, delayed reactions, multiple responses, disregard of instructions, inability to pronounce a common word, failure to respond, and inconsistency on test-retest. Other significant responses include blushing, stammering, laughing, coughing, sighing, clearing the throat, cryhig, excessive body movement, and repetition of the sthnulus word. Any one or combination of these responses might hidicate that a complex has been reached (Jung, 1935/1968; Jung & Riklhi, 1904/1973).
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