Article

Defensive Processes

E. Samuel Winer and Leonard Newman

in Psychology

ISBN: 9780199828340
Published online November 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0021
Defensive Processes

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  • Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
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Defensive processes may be defined as an underlying series of mental operations, occurring primarily outside of a person’s awareness, that result in either (1) an experience being recorded in memory in such a way that it is remembered as being more pleasant or less threatening than it actually was, or (2) threatening experiences becoming inaccessible to future conscious recall. Defensive processes were initially conceptualized by Freud as basic unconscious mechanisms serving to shield the conscious mind from painful truths. Today, research on defensive processes focuses more on the social and cognitive processes that are associated with defensiveness, as well as on whether particular individuals are more likely to engage in defensive behaviors. The first section of this bibliography, Defense Mechanisms, describes the initial Freudian origins of the concept of defensiveness, introduces some general reviews of the literature, discusses the scientific basis for defense mechanisms, and reviews critiques and controversies that have surrounded these concepts. The next section, Information Processing, describes research on perceptual defense, which has examined what cognitive processes play a role in the speed and accuracy with which emotional information is processed. The following section, Individual Differences in Anxiety and Social Desirability, describes extant research on individual differences in anxiety and social desirability in relation to defensiveness. Somewhat in contrast to prior methods, this program of research has conceptualized defensiveness as something that varies between people. Those individual differences are then used to predict differences in the way persons behave. The bibliography concludes with a summary of research on Defensive Repressors, individuals who demonstrate high levels of defensiveness and low levels of anxiety, and Vigilance-Avoidance Theory, a framework for understanding how these individuals process information.

Article.  7692 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Health Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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