Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Timothy L. Hulsey

Committee Members

Jack M. Barlow, Heather A. Hirschfeld, Garriy Shteynberg


An important part of psychological diagnosis involves determining the patient’s level of personality functioning. In part, psychoanalytic clinicians accomplish this by making a judgment about the maturity of the patient’s personality organization. This occurs across a three-level continuum ranging from neurotic (least severe) to borderline to psychotic (most severe). The current study sought to determine whether a computer-based lexical analysis of patient Rorschach free-association responses could predict maturity of personality organization. Specifically, would the frequencies of words associated with the psychoanalytic constructs of primary process mentation and ego boundary disturbance differ according to level of personality organization? An archival lexical analysis was conducted using two computerized word dictionaries that operationalize the psychoanalytic constructs of primary and secondary process mentation and ego boundary integrity. I hypothesized that language indicating increased levels of primary process mentation and ego boundary disturbance would coincide with more severe personality pathology. However, results showed no differences in primary versus secondary process or ego boundary integrity among participants with differing levels of personality organization. I discuss the implications of these findings and offer future directions for research.

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