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PERSONALITY PSY234 Lecture 2 : Psychodynamic theories. Dr Simon Boag Email: Readings. Carver, C. S. & Scheier, M. F. (2004). Perspectives on Personality . (pp. 195-207, 221-230) Additional (non-assess able )

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personality psy234 lecture 2 psychodynamic theories

PERSONALITY PSY234Lecture 2:Psychodynamic theories

Dr Simon Boag


  • Carver, C. S. & Scheier, M. F. (2004). Perspectives on Personality. (pp. 195-207, 221-230)


  • Freud, S. (1923). The ego & the id. Standard Edition, vol. XIX. London: Hogarth.
  • Freud, S (1933). New Introductory Lectures. Standard Edition, vol. XXII. London: Hogarth.
lecture outline
Lecture Outline

I. The Structural theory

  • Id, Ego & Superego

II. Defence mechanisms

  • ‘Solutions’ to conflict

III. Evaluation

Further readings

learning outcomes
Learning Outcomes

After this lecture you should be able to:

  • Describe Freud’s structural model and understand the functions and interactions of the different agencies
  • Describe the various defence mechanisms and their place in Freud’s theory of personality
  • Appreciate & evaluate criticisms of Psychoanalytic theory
psycho analysis
  • The mind is a society of competing, active desires & motives (often in conflict)
  • All behaviour (eg. desires) motivated by Instinctual Drives (Triebe)
  • Strict determinism: biology + environment gives rise to psychology
  • Biological basis: bodily ‘needs’
  • eg. need for food
  • Psychological: Desires, urges, wishes
  • eg. desire to eat
instinctual drives
Instinctual Drives

(1) Self-preservative vs libidinal drives

  • ‘Hunger’ vs ‘Love’

(2) Eros vs destructiveness (Thanatos)

  • Integration vs disintegration
  • Aggression as channeled self-destructiveness
  • Neurophysiological evidence for Freud’s first proposal (Damasio, 1994; Sewards & Sewards, 2002)
i the structural model
I. The Structural Model
  • Freud (1923)
  • Agencies: id, ego & super-ego
  • Id: biological drives
  • Ego: self
  • Super-ego: conscience
  • Conscious: what we are aware of
  • Unconscious: what we are unaware of
the id das es the it
The Id (das Es; the “it”)

Original & primitive part of the mind

  • Basic instinctual drives & desires
  • Impersonal/unsocial
  • Unconscious eg. sex hormones (‘unknown & uncontrollable’)

Operates via pleasure principle

  • Desire for immediate gratification (terminate unpleasure)
  • Wishful rather than realistic thinking
the ego das ich the i
The Ego (das Ich; the “I”)
  • Our sense of self; “I”
  • Both conscious/unconscious
  • Self develops through ‘identification’ & rejection of desires based on socialisation
  • Reality principle
  • We learn to satisfy desires via reality
  • Secondary process:
  • ‘Reason & commonsense’
  • Gratification postponement eg. uni
the super ego das ber ich over i
The Super-ego (das Über-Ich; “Over-I”)
  • Conscience, moral beliefs & values
  • Belief of who we should be
  • Impact of social forces on our self-regulation
  • Develops from fear of punishment/loss of love (anxiety & guilt)
  • Internalisation of parental/societal demands, prohibitions & ideals
  • Built up from actual experiences with authority figures
personality development
Personality Development


  • Originally all id; unsocialised desires
  • Dependency: need for parents’ love


  • Learn that some desires lead to punishment/anxiety

eg. aggressive & sexual desires

  • Conflict between desires & parental prohibitions
  • Morality an extension of socialisation
personality development cont
Personality Development (cont).

Repression(inhibition) of ‘antisocial’ desires

Ego development:

  • Dominant part of personality (“I”)
  • ‘I am this, not that’

Superego development:

Moral beliefs, self-restrictions & ideals

Unconscious conflict between biological impulses and moral beliefs

conflict with sexuality
Conflict with ‘Sexuality’

Q. Are humans conflicted with their sexual processes?

A. Freud: Yes

“… at no point has civilisation tried to exercise severer suppression than in the sphere of sexuality”

(Freud, 1905, p. 110).

  • ‘Sexuality’ broadly defined in terms of sensual pleasure & ‘love’
psycho sexuality

“… we prefer to speak of psychosexuality, thus laying stress on the point that the mental factor in sexual life should not be overlooked or underestimated. We use the word ‘sexuality’ in the same comprehensive sense as that in which the German language uses the word lieben

[to love]”

(Freud, 1910, pp. 222-3).

ii defence mechanisms
II. Defence Mechanisms
  • ‘Solutions’ to conflict used by the ego
  • Generally unconscious/automatic reactions
  • Response to painful affect (emotion)
  • eg. anxiety, guilt, shame


  • Anxiety-provoking desire banished from conscious awareness
  • Similar to defensive reflex
  • Mastery & ‘condemning judgement’
defence mechanisms cont
Defence Mechanisms (cont.)


  • Transforming unacceptable wishes into their opposite (cf. ‘disgust’)
  • Anti-homosexual (homophobic) feelings may be reaction formations against unconscious homosexual desires
  • Homophobic males show increased levels of sexual arousal to homosexual stimuli compared to non-homophobic males (Adams, Wright & Lohr, 1996)
defence mechanisms cont20
Defence Mechanisms (cont.)


  • “… an unacceptable feeling, impulse, or idea is attributed to another person or thing” (Willick, 1995, p. 488)
  • Refusing to see or accept undesirable desires in oneself; instead attributing them to others
  • eg. a paranoid person who believes that everyone is out to kill him or her may be harbouring such wishes themselves
defence mechanisms cont21
Defence Mechanisms (cont.)

Isolation (intellectualisation)

  • Thought & feeling ‘isolated’
  • Thinking without feeling
  • eg. overly intellectual person cut off from their own feelings


  • Transforming socially unacceptable desires into socially acceptable outlets
  • eg. aggression channelled into sport
empirical evidence
Empirical Evidence?
  • Difficulty testing unconscious processes
  • Baumeister et al (1998): Meta-analysis of studies of defence mechanisms;
  • Conclusion:
  • ‘Substantial support’ for many defence mechanisms
  • However: problems of definitions & interpretation of results
iii evaluation of psychoanalytic theory
III. Evaluation of Psychoanalytic Theory
  • The problem of evidence
  • “Unscientific/untestable/unfalsifiable”
  • eg. dream interpretation (Sir Karl Popper)
  • However, literally thousands of experiments (Fisher & Greenberg, 1996)
  • “Has been tested & falsified” (Eysenck, 1985; McCarley & Hobson, 1977)
  • Ongoing debate & neuropsychoanalysis
  • Evidence of biological drives & impact of socialisation (Damasio, 1994)
  • Psychodynamic models emphasise the active, motivated nature of the mind & personality
  • Freud’s structural theory describes personality in terms of the id (drives), ego (self) & superego (conscience)
  • Defence mechanisms protect the ego from anxiety and guilt-provoking desires
further reading
Further Reading
  • Non-assessable
  • Adams HE, Wright LW, & Lohr BA (1996). Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 440-445
  • Baumeister RF et al (1998). Freudian defence mechanisms… Journal of Personality, 66, 1081-1124
  • Fisher S & Greenberg RP (1996). Freud scientifically reappraised. NY: John Wiley