What Has Replaced Freud?

Sunday, February 28, 2021

What Is It

Although the concept that we can have thoughts and desires hidden from consciousness can be traced back to antiquity, it was Freud who truly popularized it in the twentieth century. Now Freud’s theory of the unconscious mind has mostly been abandoned for being unscientific and lacking in empirical evidence. So what has replaced it? Are newer theories that reference “automatic systems” or “implicit attitudes” any more scientific than Freud’s? And why is so much research about the unconscious mind being conducted in business schools? Josh and Ray are quite conscious of their guest, Blakey Vermeule from Stanford University, author of "The New Unconscious: A Literary Guided Tour."

Comments (7)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Tuesday, February 23, 2021 -- 4:38 AM

Opinion: I am not certain,

Opinion: I am not certain, but replacement may not be an appropriate characterization. Freud posed interesting theories. Much of what he said was likely as good as anything else for the time. Seems to me that, if anything, neuroscience, psychology, and perhaps even philosophy have supplanted the good doctor. Just thinking, and advocating the devil.

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Thursday, March 4, 2021 -- 5:14 PM

Freud may be dead, but

Freud may be dead, but science isn't in too great a shape either. The p value crisis, lack of repetitions and loss of public confidence has curable patients seeking quackery. There are still some theories that do help. Cognitive behavioral therapy for certain mental illness is a good example.

Since Freud didn't have a scientific model, science can't necessarily replace his model with a better one. The current models aren't telling as compelling a story. That will be frustrating for humans. Some may prefer stories they understand vs. a science that says we just don't know. In either case it is best to listen to data and with some skepticism ... experts until we get a clearer picture.

These are Kahneman's own words - from Thinking, Fast and Slow.

'System 1 and System 2 are so central to the story I tell in this book that I must make it absolutely clear that they are fictitious characters. '

The new models are better than Freud because they don't pretend to be. Enough with the pretending already. I'm all in for uncertainty until I can get results that repeat. Even if I don't live to see that day.

A couple good reads that have helped me on this are:

Kandel, Eric R. (2018), The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 9780374287863.

Barrett, Lisa F (2017), How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 0544133315.

Barrett also has a more accessible book out last year... but it doesn't tell her story which is basically the same as Kandel's ... they both are trained psychotherapists who turned to neuroscience to retrain (both multiple times) to find answers. Both are very supportive of modern therapy, but not outside the data.

We are on the precipice of a revolution in our understanding of the brain, human body and previously squishy biology all yielding to imaging and modelling that will tell a story much better than Freud ever dreamed. We just aren't there yet.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Saturday, March 6, 2021 -- 3:53 PM

Nice work, Tim. Not people

Nice work, Tim. Not people whom I have read. Am sure, though, they have many things to offer. My time is limited. For the rest of the PT folks, I offer this: over the gamut of PT topics, there have been repetitive and/or over-lapping posts, approaching related topics in slightly differing ways: cultural; economic; sociological; political; and epiphenominal. If you are gathering research for someone's thesis or dissertation, fine. Not my concern. Except for the fact that I need not share insights, for which my input will never get more than some vague footnote Other well-positioned folks, to whom
I have reached out, are equally less-interested in my work. OK. I will read what I read; write what I write and WORK for myself. That is all there is...

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Tuesday, March 9, 2021 -- 6:03 AM

There is more than that

There is more than that Harold, but that will do for sure.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, March 19, 2021 -- 4:40 PM

Still looking for a treatment

Still looking for a treatment of truth. Am working on that. Have wanted to see something here. It appears truth may be too abstract; too relative; too epiphenominal. I have offered a tract, as contribution, but have received no expression of interest. I get it. Mostly. This does not mean I think it
Is intelligible. As I have admitted, I am an autodidact. There have been comparatively few of us who have moved establishmentarian dogma. Burke is a paragon,in my lifetime. I am sure there have been others. But the field of philosophy is, uh, narrow? How can that be? Hmmmmmm...

LFOlsnesLea's picture


Sunday, April 11, 2021 -- 10:06 AM

Useful tips:

Useful tips:
Depression: abuses, torture, exposure to continuous threats
Schizophrenia: lack of morality, losing one's morality, "newer" self, difficulty to relate to morality and ethics
Insofar psychology is applied at all before psychiatry then one should relate to these above facts, more or less established.
Therefore the future of psychology in terms of diagnostics must run with psychiatry and its best practice.

This way one is free from making these cloudy assumptions about relations to mother and father and so on in mentally sick patients and see it for real in most healthy people who can relate naturally, not to say the least ethically and morally to these issues, finding minute differences and optimal children upbringing.

End note: there's no use in trying to compete with psychiatry as psychiatry today (2021) is vastly superior to psychology in terms of healing patients from mental illnesses. Best wishes, Dr. Olsnes-Lea

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Friday, May 7, 2021 -- 11:18 AM



If by useful, you mean truthful, then associating schizophrenia with morality is false.

What is useful about this? Schizophrenia is a developmental ailment of the brain. A clinician loved one or fellow human can only view difficulty relating to morality in one who has schizophrenia through that lens. A person with schizophrenia has difficulty relating to reality.

You are pointing to clinical symptoms, perhaps? A lack of morality is not uniformly true to a diagnosis of schizophrenia as it might be for frontotemporal dementia (FTD), for example. Schizophrenia affects regions of the brain like FTD, but it can be treated, unlike FTD. It's important to stress that a person with a broken leg can't walk but still knows how to walk. A person with schizophrenia still has morality, unlike a person with FTD who tragically may have permanently lost their sense of social presence and moral compass.