Transference in Everyday Experience: Implications of Experimental Research for Relevant Clinical Phenomena

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Experimental research examining the clinical concept of transference (S. Freud, 1912/1958; H. S. Sullivan, 1953) using a social–cognitive model has demonstrated that mental representations of significant others are stored in memory and can be activated and applied in new social encounters, with consequences for cognition, evaluation, affect, motivation, expectancies, and self-evaluations (S. M. Andersen & N. S. Glassman, 1996; S. M. Andersen, I. Reznik, & S. Chen, 1997). These findings constitute an empirical demonstration of transference in everyday social relations and suggest that transference is a normal, nonpathological process, occurring both inside and outside of psychotherapy, following basic rules of social information processing. In this article, clinical implications of this research are discussed, including how the content versus process of transference may contribute to maladaptive transference responses and the potential value of identifying triggering cues in transference in real life and in therapy, to promote more adaptive responding.

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