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Computational Psychoanalysis

Day and Night by Escher Day and Night by Escher

Computational psychoanalysis can be defined essentially as the discipline of building formal models of the mind comprising structurally the unconscious component of thought. Still, this definition underdetermines the field of study: from the one hand the powerful explicative capability of the psychoanalytic conception seems to rely largely on conceptual vagueness; from the other hand, the rigid formalisms of exact sciences seem to be incompatible with the creative, emotional, contradictory and imaginific human dimension generated by the unconscious mechanics of the mind. The contradiction is just apparent because if is true, for example, that the gravity field shapes our buildings, how we walk, how the flowers grow and so on, it cannot decide the colour of the walls we prefer for our home or where we go for a walk because of the smell of the flowers. Similarly, a formal model can depict the deep functioning of the mind, but it cannot be able to foresee how that mind reacts to the enormous amount of unforeseeable stimuli received from the outside and the "inside".

We are convinced that the unconscious traits of the human thought — together with other connected phenomena such as emotions, affects, salience, transfert, feelings, symbolizations and so on — are not just secondary elements of intelligence, but they are the principal ingredient of what is commonly considered to be “human” intelligence.  The computational psychoanalysis research field consists mainly of the attempt to define models where conscious and unconscious phenomena live together and interact with each other in a way that results in the human behaviour we perceive as intelligent.

Even if such an acrobatic interdisciplinarity makes this field more akin to an intellectual enterprise than a research plan, it must be emphasized that the mathematical, logical and computational formalisms employed are never intended extensively in a metaphoric or analogical way. On the contrary, formal soundness and coherence are considered a pre-eminent concern of our studies. We are convinced that this chimeric approach could be appealing both to computer science (inter alia for the research on affective computing, artificial intelligence, cognitive informatics, creativity) and to psychology (inter alia psychodynamic and cognitive psychology, process research, narrative analysis, text analysis). Informatic-based research could benefit from our work because it offers the power of a structured and extensive theoretical framework with solid tradition and a huge clinical validation, a conceptual painting deeply rooted in the cultural ground of humanity with a potential wealth of practical applications. Psychology-based research could benefit as well because the presence of formalized models could make process research more consistent, and could offer a common ground for research into integrative approaches of clinical and theoretical nature.

Our approach is very open, and is more focused on the methodological aspects than on some hypothetical research goal. We are mathematicians, logicians, computer scientists, physicists who share the idea that formal methods are not in contrast with creativity, that what is called “intelligence” needs a-rational components and that, more importantly, all these aspects must be taken and kept together because they cannot really exist without each other.

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