Category Archives: Recent publications

NEW RESEARCH: Personality Dynamics, Motivation, & the Logic of Explanation

Boag, S. (2018). Personality dynamics, motivation, and the logic of explanation. Review of General Psychology. Online preprint. Please contact me if you would like a copy.


Dynamic personality approaches provide an important step forward for twenty-first century personality theories because they promise greater explanatory power compared with latent trait approaches. Nevertheless , whether dynamic personality theories satisfactorily address motivated action remains unclear. To address this, this article discusses the logic of explanation and problems with latent trait approaches in terms of circularity and reification. The article then assesses explanation within dynamic personality accounts and the putative role of motivation. While dynamic personality approaches avoid many of the problems associated with latent trait accounts, a satisfactory account of motivational systems and “human nature” is currently missing. Suggestions for addressing the dynamics of human nature in terms of criteria for motivational systems are discussed. Attachment theory is offered as one possible foundation for addressing the motivational dynamics of personality.

NEW RESEARCH: On dreams & motivation: comparison of Freud’s & Hobson’s views

Boag, S. (2017). On dreams & motivation: comparison of Freud’s & Hobson’s Views. Front. Psychol. 7:2001. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.02001


The merits of Freudian dream theory continue to be debated and both supporters and critics appeal to empirical evidence to support their respective positions. What receives much less attention is the theoretical coherency of either Freudian dream theory or alternative perspectives. This paper examines Freudian dream theory and J. Allan Hobson’s alternative position by addressing the role of motivation in dreams. This paper first discusses motivation in Freudian theory and its relation to dreams and disguise-censorship. The role of motivation in Hobson’s theory is then considered. Hobson’s claim that dream plot and content selection is random and based on design error and functional imbalance is then discussed in relation to the protoconsciousness theory proposal that dreams serve an adaptive function. While there are apparent inconsistencies in Hobson’s position, his appeal to emotions and instincts provides a preliminary platform for understanding the role of motivation in dreams that is consonant with the Freudian position.

NEW RESEARCH: Metapsychology & the Foundations of Psychoanalysis

Metapsychology and the Foundations of Psychoanalysis redresses faults in Freud’s original conception to develop a coherent theoretical basis for psychodynamic theory. The book argues that Freud’s much maligned ‘metapsychology’, once revised, can provide a foundation for evaluating and integrating the plethora of psychodynamic perspectives, by developing a philosophically-informed position that addresses the embodied, interconnected relationship between motivation, cognition and affects.

The book centres upon the major concepts in psychoanalysis, including the notion of unconscious mental processes, wish-fulfilment, fantasy, and repression. Both philosophical considerations and empirical evidence are brought to bear upon these topics, and used to extract the valuable insights from major approaches. As a result, this revised general psychology, which stays true to Freud’s intention, addresses psychoanalytic pluralism and shows it is possible to develop a unified account, integrating the insights from attachment theory and object relational approaches and acknowledging the rightful role for neuropsychoanalysis.

NEW RESEARCH: In defence of unconscious mentality

Boag, S. (2015). In defence of unconscious mentality. In S. Boag, L. A. W. Brakel, & V. Talvitie (Eds.), Psychoanalysis and Philosophy of Mind (pp. 239-265). London: Karnac.

Download Boag 2015 Unconscious mentality


This chapter is a response to recent attacks upon the possibility of unconscious mentality and the use of Brentano’s claim that mental acts are necessarily conscious due to Intentionality. The chapter demonstrates that Brentano’s stance against unconscious mentality is an empirical claim and not a logical one. Against the claim that unconscious processes are simply non-cognitive neural processes, this chapter demonstrates that the conclusion that unconscious processes are simply neural processes follows from failing to distinguish between knowing and knowing that one knows. Specifically, the problem follows from reinstating the Cartesian fallacy which confuses consciousness of something with self-consciousness of it. This chapter discusses unconscious processes in terms of psychological relations involving brain processes but which are not reducible to them. Whether any event or process is conscious is unconscious is simply to describe certain relationships and not qualities of mental processes. The implications for the dynamic unconscious, as well as criticisms of the systemic view of unconscious mentality, are further discussed

NEW RESEARCH: Psychoanalysis and Philosophy of Mind: unconscious mentality in the 21st century

Boag, S., Brakel, L. A. W., & Talvitie, V. (Eds). (2015). Psychoanalysis and Philosophy of Mind: Unconscious Mentality in the 21st Century. London; Karnac.

This second volume follows our first (Philosophy, Science & Psychoanalysis) and critically examines the nature of unconscious mental processes and psychoanalytic explanation. The volume brings together Tamas Pataki, Jim Hopkins, Michael Levine, Linda, Vesa and me. Further information on the volume can be found here.

For a list of authors, papers, and introductory material see Psychoanalysis____Philosophy_of_Mind_2015.

NEW RESEARCH: Personality assessment, ‘construct validity’, and the significance of theory

Boag, S. (2015). Personality assessment, ‘construct validity’, and the significance of theory. Personality & Individual Differences, 84, 36-44. Download here: Boag 2015


Personality assessment helps us to predict how people behave under various circumstances or how well a person might perform within certain roles. However, there are reasons to question the supposed ‘construct validity’ of tests designed to assess various personality attributes including dispositional traits. To demonstrate this, the paper first discusses a realist account of test validity where validity requires that both the attribute exist and that changes in the attribute are causally related to changes in test scores. The paper demonstrates that the validity for tests of dispositional traits is questionable given conceptual problems with traits existing as within-person attributes capable of causing changes in test scores. The widespread reliance on Likert-style response formats is then discussed in relation to the assumed quantitative structure of personality attributes. Based on a realist view of measurement, the uncritical adoption of a representational theory of measurement within personality research means that the validity of all personality tests claiming to ‘measure’ personality attributes is questionable. Suggestions for addressing test validity in personality assessment are then discussed in terms of paying greater critical attention to personality theory itself and adopting a realist theory of assessment and measurement.

NEW RESEARCH: Persisting myths surrounding Sigmund Freud’s dream theory: a reply to Hobson’s critique of the scientific status of psychoanalysis.

Claudio Colace and I have published two new papers discussing the theoretical and evidential status of Freudian dream theory:

  • Colace, C. & Boag, S. (2015). Persisting myths surrounding Sigmund Freud’s dream theory: a reply to Hobson’s critique of the scientific status of psychoanalysis. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 51, 107-125.
  • Colace, C. & Boag, S. (2015). The empirical study of infantile wish-fulfillment dreams: a reply to response of Allan J. Hobson. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 51, 132-134.

Find copies of the papers here:

Colace & Boag 2015a and Colace & Boag 2015b


This article replies directly to the two cornerstones of Hobson’s legendary transposition of Freud’s dream theory, that is, the theory’s presumed empirical untestability and its scientific obsolescence or replaceability in the scientific arena. After an outline of Freudian dream theory,  empirical data coming from two research paradigms (“children’s dreams” and “drug dreams”) are reported. From a theoretical-epistemological point of view, the studies show that Freud’s dream  theory includes clear “potential falsifiers,” that is, in Popper’s terms, certain events, which if found to be true, would unequivocally show Freud to be wrong. This challenges Hobson’s accusation concerning the empirical untestability of Freud dream theory. From an empirical viewpoint, these studies show that Freudian dream theory is not even remotely scientifically outdated and obsolete. The results of these studies are consistent with the cornerstones of Freudian dream theory (e.g., the hypothesis of dreams as wish-fulfillment, the disguise-censorship model) and suggest the viability and worth of further investigation in this arena. Indeed, Freud’s dream theory is alive and useful in explaining the phenomenon of dreams in various fields of application. These authors believe that J. A. Hobson’s dismissal of Freudian dream theory is thus misguided and premature because, to date, the findings indicate that Freud was essentially correct.

These two papers involve a dialogue with J. Allan Hobson’s critique of Freudian dream theory. Our first paper is a response to J. Allan Hobson’s paper:

  • Hobson, J. A. (2013). Ego Ergo Sum: Toward a Psychodynamic Neurology. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 49(2), 142-164.

He then replied to our response:

  • Hobson, J. A.  (2015). Dreams and consciousness: response to Colace and Boag. Contemporary Psychoanalysis.

What is interesting about the discussion is that in many respects Hobson agrees with much of Freudian dream theory. The sticking point, however, appears to be the contribution of repression to dreaming.