Empirical study of the associations between archetypal images and their meanings : evidence of archetypal (collective unconscious) memory

Sotirova-Kohli, Milena. Empirical study of the associations between archetypal images and their meanings : evidence of archetypal (collective unconscious) memory. 2013, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Psychology.


Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/diss/DissB_10783

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The theory of the archetypes and the collective unconscious are two of the most typical topics of analytical Jungian psychology, on the one hand, and two of the most controversial ones, on the other. In Jung’s view the archetypes are predispositions to patterns of perception and behavior typical of all human being and the animal world. They have evolved, according to Jung, evolutionary over the repeated history of re-experiencing similar situations. Although Jung stressed that these were given to us a priori and seem to be innate, he also pointed out that it is the form which is innate. Archetypes are autonomous from consciousness, have a feeling value, and are unknowable to consciousness. We experience the archetypes through their ability to organize experience and ideas. They manifest themselves under the influence of the environment as representations in myths, fairy tales, dreams, art, as well as in scientific ideas.
Contemporary Jungian scholars have proposed different ways of reinterpreting the Jungian understanding of the archetypes in terms of contemporary science. Among the most prominent reformulations is the understanding of the archetype as image schema in the context of embodied cognition and enacted cognition. Furthermore, many scholars look at the similarities between the dynamics of the archetype and the attractors in dynamic open systems, thus suggesting that archetypes are attractors in the psyche as a system. Others direct their attention to findings of complexity theory and the parallels to the non-linear dynamics of archetypal processes. There still are also followers of the idea that archetypes are innate and they are predispositions that we come with and result from the long process of evolution.
The review of some contemporary scientific findings in psychology and neuroscience demonstrated that many of the observations of C. G. Jung concerning the theory of the archetype and the collective unconscious find support in contemporary psychology as phenomena.
However, empirical research is still extremely sparse. The work of Rosen and Smith (1991) and the research of Maloney (1999) were the first attempts to test empirically the hypothesis of the archetypes of the collective unconscious. Maloney studied the preferences of adults and demonstrated experimentally that adults showed preferences for pictures with archetypal motifs. Rosen and Smith (1991) studied the association between archetypal symbols and their related meanings and reached the conclusion that archetypal symbols and their meanings were strongly associated and these associations were unconscious, which they explained as a form of archetypal (collective unconscious) memory triggered into consciousness as a result of priming.
The studies reported here build on the method of Rosen and Smith (1991) and investigate the association between archetypal images and their related meanings in a cross-cultural context.
The first study was a cross-cultural replication in German of the original work of Rosen and Smith (1991). The results replicated the findings that archetypal symbols were strongly associated to their meanings and that the nature of these associations was unconscious. In this sense, the results support the assertions of Jung that archetypes are universal in nature and demonstrate that the effect observed in the English studies of Rosen and Smith is unlikely to be a cultural or linguistic artifact.
The second study investigated the nature of cognitive functioning of Chinese characters (kanji). The study demonstrated that kanji behave on a cognitive level similar to archetypal images and that there is a strong association between the graphic image of kanji and their true meanings. The nature of this association seems to be unconscious. Furthermore, these results lent support to the theoretical speculations about the archetype as image schema in the context of the embodied cognition approach to cognition.
Advisors:Roesler, Christian
Committee Members:Opwis, Klaus and Penner, Iris-Katharina
Faculties and Departments:07 Faculty of Psychology > Departement Psychologie > Forschungsbereich Persönlichkeits- und Entwicklungspsychologie > Allgemeine Psychologie und Methodologie (Opwis)
UniBasel Contributors:Opwis, Klaus and Penner, Iris-Katharina
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis no:10783
Thesis status:Complete
Number of Pages:109 Bl.
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edoc DOI:
Last Modified:05 Apr 2018 17:34
Deposited On:26 May 2014 13:24

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