Wynn Schwartz

Wynn R. Schwartz (born 1950) is an American clinical and experimental psychologist, research psychoanalyst, and modern theorist of psychology, best known for his work in the field of Descriptive psychology.[1]


Wynn Schwartz did his undergraduate work at Duke University and holds a doctorate from the University of Colorado, Boulder obtained under the supervision of the creator of Descriptive Psychology, Peter G. Ossorio, and trained as a research psychoanalyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. His conceptual work on empathy has provided an ordinary language understanding of empathy as a feature of I-Thou relationships and ordinary social interactions. His experiments with hypnosis have helped clarify how some hypnotic inductions with certain subjects create a temporary disruption in episodic memory and undermine reality testing. His experiments with dreams have contributed to an understanding of the manner in which dream cognition is connected to a person's basic everyday concerns shaped by the individual's personality and current preoccupations.

Professor Schwartz serves on the core faculty of Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, and teaches at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard Extension School. He has taught at Wellesley College, the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, and the Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis. Much of his psychoanalytic work involves an application of Descriptive Psychology.

On empathy

"We recognize others as empathic when we feel that they have accurately acted on or somehow acknowledged in stated or unstated fashion our values or motivations, our knowledge, and our skills or competence, but especially as they appear to recognize the significance of our actions in a manner that we can tolerate their being recognized."[2]

Schwartz (2008) suggests people are empathic when they recognize another person's intentions, actions, personal characteristics, and psychological states and communicate that recognition to the other in an accurate and tolerable manner. An empathic recognition of another's behavior can include actions that the observed claims or disowns. According to Schwartz, a therapeutic interpretation of a disowned or unconsciously motivated action recognizes that people take it that things are as they seem to them unless they have sufficient reason to think otherwise and that the therapist's task is to tactfully build the case that things might not be as they seem to the client. When empathically interpreting behavior, a therapist offers an interpretation that the client can accept or reject, since the therapist acknowledges that useful interpretations are subject to ongoing negotiation and revision. Although accurate empathic interpretations can take an infinite variety of forms, they must be useful, tolerable, and fit the person's possible self-understanding. In psychoanalysis, the therapist attempts an empathic interpretation of transference and resistance.[3][4][5]

On psychoanalysis

Schwartz is noted for his role in clarifying the theory and practice of psychoanalysis in ordinary pragmatic language from the perspective of Descriptive Psychology[6] and for his work in psychoanalytic approaches to dream psychology.[7][8]

Representative publications


  1. Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology: www.mspp.edu/about/faculty/schwartz.asp
  2. Schwartz, W. (2002). From passivity to competence: A conceptualization of knowledge, skill, tolerance, and empathy. Psychiatry, 65(4), 338-345.
  3. Schwartz, Wynn. Status Dynamics and Psychotherapy: http://www.sdp.org/sdp/papers/wynn.html
  4. Schwartz W (2002). "From passivity to competence: A conceptualization of knowledge, skill, tolerance, and empathy". Psychiatry. 65 (4): 338–345. doi:10.1521/psyc.65.4.338.20239.
  5. Schwartz W (In press). "The parameters of empathy". Advances in Descriptive Psychology. 10. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. Putnam, A.O. Descriptive Descriptive Psychology Psychology Institute Papers:http://descriptivepsychologyinstitute.org/Descriptive_Psychology_and_Science.pdf
  7. Anwandter, Krippner, R. & S. (2006). El lenguaje de la noche: cómo entender el paisaje de los sueños. RiL Editores.
  8. Greenberg,R. et al. (1983). Memory, emotion, and rem sleep . Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 92(3), 378-381.
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