Psychoanalytic Characterology

The Problem of Cognitive Styles
  • Helen Block Lewis
Part of the Emotions, Personality, and Psychotherapy book series (EPPS)


Freud’s major observations on cognitive styles, in addition to those in his work on unraveling symptoms, dreams, mistakes, and jokes, are found in three of his “minor” writings. The first source is Freud’s early description of the differences among the defenses of conversion, isolation of affect, and total repression (Freud, 1894, 1896), a distinction still being studied between “repressors” and “sensitizers” (Byrne, 1964), or between people with “high and low vigilance” (Minard, 1965). The second source is Freud’s description of the anal character (1908a), another kind of statement of cognitive style, this time based on a theory of moral development. It is this paper that was the model for an extrapolated “oral” character. The third source is Freud’s description of masculine and feminine cognitive styles, based on the interaction between sex and culturally prescribed sex roles and culminating in a sex difference in style of conscience, that is, in the relationship between the self and internalized others. These concepts found brief expression in Freud’s paper on libidinal types (1931), and have been picked up in the work on field dependence, as well as in studies on locus of control (Rotter, 1966). The present chapter will review these three sources, and will trace the ways in which they have influenced the mainstream of psychology.


Cognitive Style Toilet Training Maternal Warmth Anal Character Adult Character 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Block Lewis
    • 1
  1. 1.Yale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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