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Word Association Paper

Word Association Paper

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Jung’s Word Association Test with Correlation from a Clinical CaseRobert I. Winer, M.D.February 20, 2005
This paper is divided into three parts followed by an appendix. Part I contains a review of what Iconsider to be the most important aspects of the Word Association Test. Part II presents aclinical case description, result of the a Word Association Test and temperament test, and threedreams: the patient’s initial dream upon entering therapy and his next two dreams. Part III is anattempt to synthesize the complexes found in the Word Association Test with his dreams. Theappendix contains the Word Association Test and two graphs.P
The Word Association Test is a psychological test given to identify the feeling-toned complexesof a subject. In a 1937 address delivered at Harvard University, Jung gave a definition of thefeeling toned complex with particular reference to the effects typically found in the WordAssociation Test. He noted that as a result of the normal psyche’s tendency to split, parts of it“detach themselves from consciousness to such an extent that they not only appear as foreign butlead an autonomous life of their own [as] ... complexes – psychic fragments that ... interfere withthe intentions of the will and disturb conscious performance; they produce disturbances of memory and blockages in the flow of associations; they appear and disappear according to theirown laws; they can temporarily obsess consciousness, or influence speech and action in anunconscious way” (Jung, 1969, par. 253). It is these “disturbances of memory and blockages inthe [normal] flow of associations” that the examiner observes through the patient’s reactions tothe verbal presentation of one-hundred (100) stimulus-words.The test begins with the following simple instructions: “After I say each word, I want you torespond with a single word. Answer as quickly as possible with the first word that comes intoyour mind.” The examiner uses a stop watch to record (in units of one-fifth seconds) the timebetween the stimulus word and the subject’s response with a reaction word. In addition to notingthe latency, the examiner records the reaction-word(s) verbatim and notes any otherabnormalities or peculiarities of verbal or physical reaction, known as complex indicators. Afterfinishing, a second part of the test, called the “reproduction experiment,” begins. The examinerintroduces this section with: “Now I will see how well you remember your responses to each of the 100 words that I have asked you. This part will not be timed.” Each stimulus word is thensaid again by the examiner who records the subject’s recollections of their original response(reproductions).
Prior to the work of Jung and his colleagues at the Burgholzli hospital most psychiatrists heldthat the subject’s reaction-words resulted from their cognitive associations. Jung’s seminalobservation was to question this idea. In his 1904 paper, “The Association of Normal Subjects,”Jung suggested that subject’s reaction was fundamentally a “... psychological phenomenon
Jungs Word Association Test with Correlation from a Clinical Case Page 2 of 37Robert I. Winer, M.D.
correspond [ing] to the stimulus-word.Here, Jung’s empiric approach leads him to formulatethe test situation as follows: “We ... see in the stimulus-word merely the stimulus in the strictsense of the word and in the reaction merely a symptom of psychological processes, the nature of which we cannot judge. We do not, therefore, claim that the reaction we describe areassociations in the strictest sense” (Jung, 1973a, par. 20). This enabled him to “back away”from the prevailing viewpoint allowing a fresh look at the test’s results. Furthermore, another of Jung’s early empirical summary statements noted that the test’s specificity, that is, the reaction-word was a psychological phenomenon that occurred when the experiment stimulated “thelanguage apparatus” (Jung, 1973a, par. 25). Though it appears that investigation of the“language apparatus” aspects of the experiment was not a central interest of Jung it was laterexamined by colleague through the phenomena of vowel accentuation (Meier, 1984, pp. 114-115). Long before electrophysiological verification, Jung correctly understood the differentaspects of brain’s processing of the test’s stimulation of the language apparatus as encompassingthe psychological processes of “perception, apperception, intra-psychic association, verbalcomprehension, and motor expression ... each of which leaves its traces in the reaction” (Jung,1973, par. 26).Previous research using the Word Association Test developed an extensive classification basedupon the linguistic aspects of the reaction to the stimulus word. For his own experiments, Jungused a modification of the Kraeplin-Aschaffenburg schema (see below) that placed the reactionin one of eight categories with multiple groupings and divisions within each category (Jung,1973a, par. 111):1. Internal associations (3 groupings with 10 divisions in the 1
grouping and 7 divisionsin the 2cd grouping).2. External associations (3 groupings with 6 divisions in the 3
grouping3. Sound reaction (3 groupings)4. Miscellaneous (4 groupings with 5 divisions in the 1
grouping)5. Egocentric reactions (2 groupings)6. Perseveration (2 groupings)7. Repetition of reaction8. Linguistic connection (3 groupings with 3 divisions in the 3
grouping)In my opinion, Jung sensibly reduced the Kraeplin-Aschaffenburg schema into four groupings(see below). In addition, for each test word he recorded the presence of perseveration, anegocentric reaction, repetition of the reaction, and the type of linguistic connection (Jung, 1973a,
Jungs Word Association Test with Correlation from a Clinical Case Page 3 of 37Robert I. Winer, M.D.
par. 113) and (Meier, 1984, p. 96):1. Internal associations 3 groupings with examples: 1. Coordination (cat-animal); 2.Predicates (mother-dear, snake-poisonous, ink-writing fluid; 3.Causal (pain-tears). As a group, internal associations are defined as“pairs in which the meaning or conceptual content of the words isthe essential connecting link.” Examples are human being-boy;attack-defense; table-furniture (Jung, 1973b, par. 871).2. External associations 3 groupings with examples: 1. Co-existence (ink-pen); 2. Identity(squabble-quarrel); 3. Linguistic motor-forms (war-peace, sweet-sour). As a group, external associations are defined as pairs inwhich “the connecting link is not the intrinsic sense or meaningbut an external contingency.” Examples are knife-trouser’spocket; water-fish; plant-pot (Jung, 1973b, par. 872).3. Sound reaction 3 groupings with examples: 1. Word completion (wonder-full); 2.Sound (humility-humidity); 3. Rhyme (part-heart; cow-plough;rabbit-habit – Jung, 1973b, par. 874).4. Miscellaneous 4 groupings with examples: 1. Indirect associations (repentance-black via mourning); 2. Meaningless reactions (to sin-exercisebook); 3. Failures; 4. Repetition of the stimulus-word (lake-lake).
Analyzing the Data
While there are many possible ways to analyze and interpret the test results it seems to me thatthe primary goal must be to use the test to identify the subject’s complexes. Therefore, it is notunreasonable to look only at the reactions with prolonged latencies, that is, take an exclusivelyquantitative approach to the test. A more comprehensive approach – looking at the quality of thereaction word (linguistic classification) and any accompanying abnormalities (complexindicators) or reactions – adds a great deal of time to the process and perhaps relegates the test’spracticality to its use in medical-legal work or for research / educational purposes. For theinterested reader, the results of such a comprehensive approach may be found in Volume 2 of theJung’s Collected Works, entitled, “Experimental Researches.”1. Quantitative analysisI based my quantitative analysis upon the guidelines in Jung’s 1905 paper, “The Reaction-TimeRatio in the Association Experiment” (Jung, 1973c). One begins by arranging the data byreaction time (shortest to longest) to ascertain two probable means – one for the first fifty andanother for the second fifty words. The probable mean for each group is the reaction timebetween the 25
and 26
reaction in each series of fifty words. By convention, the Jungian

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