Definition of free association in US English:

free association


  • 1Psychology
    The mental process by which one word or image may spontaneously suggest another without any apparent connection.

    • ‘However, the qualities that he valued in film as a medium, especially the free association of images that refer to nothing outside themselves, are clearly recognizable in most of his work as a writer.’
    • ‘Before I started drafting the piece, I sat down and wrote out about two pages of free association, just listing images that fit with two of the themes of the story.’
    • ‘The exercise was a game and might be compared to free association of words.’
    • ‘In stream-of-consciousness novels, events are remembered not in chronological order but as free association brings them to mind.’
    • ‘In addition to that, this time I have more of an idea of what to expect in terms of the style in which the book is written, the whole stream of consciousness, free association thing.’
    1. 1.1 A psychoanalytic technique for investigation of the unconscious mind, in which a relaxed subject reports all passing thoughts without reservation.
      • ‘As anyone who has honestly experimented with free association knows, the technique inevitably and rapidly brings to mind topics about which one is emotionally concerned.’
      • ‘Freudian free association, in Jung's view, carried the dreamer away from the dream and served only to lead him back, time and again, to his childhood complexes, and this defeated the object of the exercise.’
      • ‘Psychodynamic therapists developed techniques such as free association where patients are encouraged to say whatever comes into their minds, and the therapist interprets the associations.’
      • ‘Freud searched constantly for the underlying causes of mental disorders, and he developed techniques such as free association and the study of dreams to probe the unconscious.’
      • ‘This is achieved by the technique of free association, whereby one starts with a dream image and allows one's thoughts to associate to it in complete freedom.’
  • 2The forming of a group, political alliance, or other organization without any constraint or external restriction.

    ‘it would violate their First Amendment rights of free association and free expression’
    • ‘In a democracy, are people entitled to promote their opinions on the effects of policies, and are they entitled to free association with others?’
    • ‘Parliamentary democracy, and things like free speech, a free press and free association, are invaluable to any campaign for a more egalitarian society.’
    • ‘Bismarck, Engels pointed out, would stamp out freedom of the press and free association without which no workers' movement was possible.’
    • ‘Instead, it claims the privileges of a free association of individuals, and promotes their interests at government expense.’
    • ‘For the working class, the fact that there is free association is very important indeed.’
    • ‘After 1989, the right to free association resulted in the establishment of approximately two hundred ethnic organizations.’
    • ‘So 20th-century British governments argued that they were engineering a gradual transformation from a London-dominated empire to a Commonwealth, a free association of equals.’
    • ‘Formally, Puerto Rico is a commonwealth in free association with the US.’
    • ‘That is simply part and parcel of the liberal right of free association, one of our most basic civil liberties.’
    • ‘But where an organization's purpose is not economic, the right of free association is greater.’
    • ‘A second advantage of industrial democracy was that it demanded more than free association: it called for a measure of self-determination as well.’
    • ‘It was superseded by the British Commonwealth, a free association of mainly self-governing nations.’
    • ‘Whether this argument is persuasive depends largely on how we evaluate two kind of claims, and in particular how much we defer to two claims made by organizations alleging free association violations.’
    • ‘Voluntary identity groups derive from enacting the principle of free association and include civic, educational, religious, political, and service groups, among others.’
    • ‘The rights of free expression of opinion and free association have been denied to us, and many of our countrymen are compelled to live in exile abroad, and cannot return to their homes.’
    • ‘To push for individualism and free association in a land where kinship was the norm for social, religious, and political affiliation was to go completely against the grain.’
    • ‘After World War II, voting privileges and rights of free association were extended throughout the country.’
    • ‘So they left some space for private initiative: they did not completely abolish civil society - the free association of individuals for economic, political, or other reasons.’


free association

/frē əˌsōsēˈāSHən/