The Influences of Various Modalities of Sensory Deprivation on the Evolution of Psychic and Communicative Structures

  • David A. Freedman
Part of the The Downstate Series of Research in Psychiatry and Psychology book series (DSRPP, volume 1)


Because I take it to be implicit in the theme of the symposium, I will not dwell on the evidence that the ability to utilize the vocal/auditory system for the purpose of making speech sounds is neither a sufficient, nor even a necessary condition for the process of thinking. Suffice it to say that within the psychoanalytic tradition the necessity to differentiate between thinking and the communication of the products of thought was recognized very early by Freud. It will be recalled that in the course of developing the topographic model, Freud (1895, 1896) assigned the process of attaching word representations to thoughts to the preconscious. Thinking itself he conceived of as an unconscious neural process. In the intervening years, his conclusions have been affirmed by an abundance of empirical evidence. The phenomenon of echolalia in humans, as well as the extraordinary abilities of the mynah bird and parrot, provide proof positive that well articulated speech sounds can be produced by individuals who are entirely lacking in the ability to understand the message their words ostensibily convey. On the other hand, equally persuasive evidence is available from the study of the congenitally deaf (see below), and such comparative studies as those of the Gardeners (1969) to the effect that both the act of creative thinking and the ability to communicate the products of the thought process are entirely possible in the absence of a functioning vocal/auditory system.


Language Development Fibrous Dysplasia Foster Parent Deaf Child Sensory Deprivation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. Freedman
    • 1
  1. 1.Baylor College of MedicineHoustonUSA

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