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“Concept formation” as a psychological term means “the experiences in (a child’s) life that give substance and referential value to an abstract concept.” The classic example is “father.” While this term has a biological meaning, it also has a sociological and psychological meaning for each person, based on how that concept manifested itself as we grew up: a sheltering, protective male figure, a stern punisher, an indulgent self-centered person, a companion, etc., based on our distinct experiences that built a real experiential figure from the “concept” of fatherhood. The psychologist (or psychiatrist) tries to help the patient go back to those experiences that formed his or her concept. If a patient has a phobia—fear of heights, for example—the psychologist will try to pinpoint those moments when height was associated with danger—a fall from a swing, a broken tree branch, etc.
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