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Pigeon Riviere – the bond and group theory


Pichón Riviere, also known as “the Argentine Freud”, was a great pioneer of psychoanalysis and social psychology in his country. His contributions in the social area led him to become one of the great exponents of social psychology, so much so that today in different universities around the world it is common to hear about Pichonian Social Psychology.

Who was Pichon Riviere?

Enrique Pichon Riviere was known as one of the most important psychiatrists in Argentina and who introduced the theory of psychoanalysis to the country.

Riviere was born on June 25, 1907 in Geneva (Switzerland). At the age of 3 he touched Argentine soil and settled in the country with his parents -Alfonso Pichon and Josephine Riviere- and his five brothers and sisters. The family settled in the northeast of Argentina, the Chaco region, in the middle of the virgin forest, so Riviere grew up in pure contact with the Guaraní indigenous culture. This multicultural affiliation was a major inspiration for its creation.

At age 6, Riviere learns the secret her family had been keeping for so long: her siblings were not her mother’s biological children; they were children conceived during their father’s first marriage.

The third stage of his life took place in Buenos Aires, where he began to study medicine in the city of Rosario. His practices in psychiatry began at El Asilo de Torres where he worked for 2 years as an intern. During this period, he worked as a journalist and interacted with artists and intellectuals of the surrealist movement, which brought him significant intellectual growth.

At the beginning of the 1940s, he created the Argentine Psychoanalytic Association together with other psychoanalysts from his environment. Later, following other interests, he began his work at the School of Dynamic Psychology, where he acquired the necessary knowledge to create his own school of Social Psychology in 1953. Two years after the creation of his School of Social Psychology, he founded the Instituto Rosarino de Estudios Sociales.

Riviere died in Buenos Aires on July 16, 1977. Thanks to his exhaustive work and his great contributions in social studies and social psychology, Riviere is considered one of the most relevant psychiatrists in the world.

Link theory

Pichon Riviere’s theory of the link arises from the concept of the relationship of objects. This link is made up of emotional, cognitive and behavioral factors , and is formed by the relationship and interaction between two or more people.

According to Riviere, intersubjective relationships are established on the basis of the needs and motivation of the bond. Each link implies the existence of a transmitter and a receiver, of a code and a decoding of messages.

Riviere defines the unconscious bond on three levels:

  1. Communication with the internal world or learning matrix
  2. Transmission of intergenerational unconscious learning or communication
  3. Transgenerational transmission, as a point of articulation between the internal world and the external world

For the author, the link corresponds to a bicorporal and tripersonal relationship, which is why he introduces in his theory the notion of an intrasubjective “third party”. Bicorporal refers to the relationship between two bodies and tripersonal refers to the existence of a third group (family, cultural or social).

Riviere questions the issue of the broadcast. In this sense, he adds the notion of “noise” to denote interference in unconscious communication between the subjects of the bond. And he uses the notion of an “epistemic” obstacle to designate the obstacles to transmission at the trans-subjective level.

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The Argentine pioneer of psychoanalysis, questions and criticizes psychoanalysts, for whom the link is taken as a space for projection and construction of identifying networks. At the same time, he also criticizes the theory of the double bind, by the English anthropologist Gregory Bateson, who according to him ignores the place of the unconscious in the construction of the psyche in a relationship with others.

Group theory

The  theory of groups of Pichon Riviere proposed that groups would become a space to modify the specific conditions of existence, a gestalt , a structure in motion by its temporal dimension. From an operational conception, he understands the group as a set of people linked together by constants of time and space, articulated by their mutual internal representation that explicitly and implicitly poses a task that constitutes its purpose.

The group can trigger primitive anxieties about the new, the unknown, the foreign, and showing oneself. These anxieties can be limited to two basic anxieties, which Pichon Riviere calls fear of loss and fear of attack. He calls them “fears” to connote the emotional character of the external object and the effect of the presence of the other. The fear of attack arises because the new is experienced as dangerous, risking attacking the Self and being a cause for concern; the fear of loss arises when there is fear of damaging the group’s assets.

Riviere adds that this situation is empirical and not virtual, but rather a limited group of people who are united in the same time and space, in an interplay of representations brought together by a common task.

According to the author, there is no group link without task. This is related to the ego ideal . Group theory separates two well-differentiated group moments in relation to this common task, namely:

  • Pre-task : there is a type of confusional anxiety and is defined by the group’s ability to focus on the task.
  • Task : it gives rise to paranoid-schizoid anxiety and fear of attack, that is, at levels of threat generated by the unknown. In this instance, the possibility of a project appears, which will later give rise to a type of depressive anxiety and fear of the loss of the referents that have been dealing with.

Difference in his theory of groups several group vectors that we will break down below:

  • Affiliation : it is the identification of the members with the group. There is a time when members feel more or less affiliated.
  • Belonging : feeling belonging, in other words, that each member of the group has a representation of each of the members.
  • Relevance: it  is directly linked to the task. Relevance with respect to the approach that is given towards the task, produce based on the explicit task.
  • Cooperation : shows the levels of cooperation, that is, if cooperation or competition predominates.
  • Learning : you can see the levels of formal and non-formal learning that the group goes through.
  • Communication:  the type of communication between group members is displayed.
  • Tele : term taken from psychodrama that has to do with the levels of affinity and rejection that exist between the members of the group.


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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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