Maria Luisa Maggiolo Marciales

Affect in the Word Association Experiment: Rethinking its Role in Light of Contemporary Affective Neuroscience and Neuropsychoanalysis

I trace Jung’s understanding of affect from his Word Association Experiment (WAE), and its centrality in formulating his complex theory. Then, I present the findings of contemporary affective neuroscientists (Panksepp and Damasio) to describe different levels of nested hierarchies of BrainMind (bottom-up) functioning and of MindBrain (top-down) functioning, which explain the circular causation processes that operate in every emotional system in the brain. I correlate primary, secondary and tertiary brain processes as explained by affective neuroscience with the neurological networks, brain regions, and circuits described in the three major recent studies of Jung’s theory of complexes published in the Journal of Analytical Psychology. Petchkovsky et al. (2013 & 2017) and Escamilla et al. (2018) using modern brain imaging techniques such as such as fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and QEEG (Quantitative Electroencephalography) while administering the WAE to different groups of test subjects, mapped specific regions activated in the brain when the test subject is confronted with a “complex word.” The neural circuits described in these studies give a biological explanation to Jung’s empirical observations. However, even though some of the findings fit well with Jung’s complex theory, others imply that the field of Analytical Psychology must rethink our explanation for how the mind works. The most significant impact of these findings relates to the notion of affective consciousness. I bring into the discussion current insights from the field of neuropsychoanalysis focusing on the contributions of Mark Solms to rethinking Freud’s basic topographic model and its consequences to psychoanalytic theory and practice, so that, in light of contemporary scientific evidence we Jungians also reevaluate what we erroneously call unconscious processes of the mind, and reflect upon those other processes that we do not yet call consciousness, such as the functions of core consciousness.


María Luisa Maggiolo Marciales is a Diploma Candidate at the C.G. Jung Institute-Zürich with an anticipated graduation of July 2022. This paper is based on her thesis work under the direction of Dr. Verena Kast. Since 2018, she has engaged in clinical work in private practice in the United States under the supervision of Dr. Mark Winborn. Prior to her second half of life, María Luisa obtained a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Georgetown University in 2002. She has a Law Degree from Universidad Católica del Táchira, in Venezuela, and a specialization (L.L.M.) in Taxation Law from the same university.


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