quota of affect

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In psychoanalysis, a quantity of instinctual energy that remains constant despite displacement and various qualitative transformations that it undergoes. It is an economic concept related to the principle of constancy. Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) defined it in an important though confused passage (because it seems to allow the quota to increase or diminish) in an article on ‘The Neuro-Psychoses of Defence’ (1894): ‘In mental functions something is to be distinguished—a quota of affect or sum of excitation—which possesses all the characteristics of a quantity (though we have no means of measuring it), which is capable of increase, diminution, displacement and discharge, and which is spread over the memory-traces of ideas somewhat as an electric charge is spread over the surface of a body’ (Standard Edition, III, pp. 45–61, at p. 60).

Subjects: Psychology.

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