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Using corpora in depth psychology : a trigram-based analysis of a corpus of fetish fantasies.

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>05/2012
Issue number1
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)69-90
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Contemporary depth psychology is under constant pressure to demonstrate and strengthen its evidence base. In this paper, I show how the analysis of large corpora can contribute to this goal of developing and testing depth-psychological theory. To provide a basis for evaluating statements about foot and shoe fetishism, I analyse the thirty-six most frequent three-word phrases (or trigrams) in a corpus of about 1.6 million words of amateur fetish stories written in the German language. Zipfian methods from quantitative linguistics are used to specify the number of phrases for analysis and I argue that these reflect the core themes of the corpus. The analysis reveals three main dimensions. First, it corroborates the observations of the early sexologists that foot and shoe fetishism is very closely intertwined with sadomasochism. Secondly, it shows that genitalia-related phrases are also common, but an examination of their contexts questions Freud's theory that fetishism results from an assumption of female castration. Thirdly, it reveals that the mouth also plays a key role; however, the frequent co-presence of genitalia references in the same texts does not seem to support straightforwardly the most common alternative theory of fetishism based on object relations. Future research could valuably extend this approach to other fetishes and, in due course, to other depth-psychological constructs.

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