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Psychoanalytic theory

Psychoanalytic theory posits that our childhood experiences and unconscious desires shape our behavior. According to Sigmund Freud, the mind consists of three components: the id, ego, and superego. These three structures often conflict with one another, leading to "fixations" in psychosexual development that can have lifelong consequences. Created by Shreena Desai.

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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user tian1di2 jax
    fun fact: did you know freud was fixated on cocaine and cigarettes then ultimately died of lung cancer because he couldn't give up his cigarette habits? so i guess we can say freud was stuck in the oral stage =)
    (36 votes)
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  • leafers sapling style avatar for user Allyson White
    Okay so I think I get what the superego is. (The moral compass, what makes us what or think about doing the right thing?) but I don't quite get the ego is it like our plans for the future or... I don't get it. Thanks. :)
    (9 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user millie
      The way I understand it, the ego acts a mediator between the id and superego. Psychoanalytic theory goes further to suggest that having a dominant id or superego can have a knock-on effect on behaviour, so the ego is needed to keep a balance between them. For example, my id might be saying, "I really want to watch a movie", but the superego is saying "no, you have to study for your exams". The ego might act as a compromise, by saying "do 2 hours of study, then watch the movie". Hope that helps!
      (40 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user pjc7161
    I don't understand the example for the Freudian slip, is the person just having stress so their speech is effected or is it something deeper than that?
    (6 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Shane Littrell
      For psychoanalysts (like Freud), the "slip of the tongue" (parapraxis), is an instance where an unconscious desire "slips out" while someone is talking. Usually (but not always) it's from a build up of libido (likely from the Id) that escapes in speech without the person being aware until they've said it. An oft-used example is a man talking to an attractive woman and accidentally saying "breast" instead of "best." According to Freudian psychoanalytic theory, such a thing would likely indicate an unconscious sexual desire. Cognitive psychologist and linguists would disagree and classify it more as a verbal processing and recall error rather than indicative of an unconscious desire.
      (16 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user Wudaifu
    What's the difference between "unconscious" and "subconscious"?
    (7 votes)
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  • marcimus pink style avatar for user arahabigail
    At Shreena mentions that the superego represents the values of society, but if that's true, why do we have moral conflicts about things society finds largely acceptable, like the slave trade in America in the 1780's? Isn't morality more complicated than social acceptance?
    (5 votes)
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  • leaf yellow style avatar for user Cindy G.  Bogarin
    Overall, why did they utilize the example of the iceberg?
    (2 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user T.C. Manasan
      The phrase "tip of the iceberg" is appropriate because we only see a small portion of something, in this case the mind of a person. The visible area, the ego and superego, helps us make decisions and we are also aware of it influencing us, hence it is called "the conscious mind." The unseen part, the id, also has a say in how we think but we generally aren't aware of it, that's why it's called "the unconscious mind."
      (5 votes)
  • male robot donald style avatar for user lindagamo
    why are these videos always so hard to understand ? the vocabulary is too extreme please try to use more basic words :(
    (2 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user kmaiden93
      Psychologists are trying to describe complex, ill-defined concepts dealing with the human mind. There is little overlap between terms from different theories, unfortunately, as each psychologists seems to want to make up their own special definitions. If you get overwhelmed with the lingo, maybe pause the video and look up the definition. This seems to be a pretty good resource: http://allpsych.com/dictionary/#.VaCdTxOrToB. It helps me to write down the definitions, so that I have them in my own words and can reference the list later. I hope this helps!
      (4 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user akst14
    why is ego a part of conscious & unconscious
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user pelicanmanagement
    my little brother has a problem taking things that aren't his he just turned 5 and i know that brain/mind devlopement goes at differnt stages, but does him taking things mean that his super ego hasn't devoleped or does he have a larger id? sorry if that doesn't make sense but i can't think of a differnt way to put it.
    (2 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Adam Wilcox
      According to the model "Psychoanalytic theory", his behavior would be classified as having a poorly defended "Oral Personality" because he is fixated on indulging himself on things that are not his due to "deprivation", or starvation or unsatisfactory stimulus provided during ages 0-1. Individuals who are fixated at these young ages tend to rely on more primitive defenses when threatened or frustrated. Remember, the model is a "conflict model" which purports id/ego/superego develop in response to internal drives being compromised by the environment. As such, the personality has to adapt by controlling it's impulses to survive. (It is a reductionist view of human life, ironically (as Freud hated religion).
      (2 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Mahmoud Hadhoud
    Definitely not the best video out there. Missing out on a lot of info
    (2 votes)
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Video transcript

All right. So let's dive into the first theory of personality, called the psychoanalytic theory. Now, you've probably heard of someone super famous in the psychology world named Sigmund Freud. So let's write his name down here, because it's very important for this theory. OK. So Sigmund Freud. Well, it so happens-- fun fact here-- that Freud was not even a psychologist. He was a physician, more specifically a neurologist. And in 1885, he went to Paris to study hypnosis with a fellow neurologist. But this experience is actually what turned him towards medical psychopathology. And psychiatry as we know it was actually unknown at the time Freud began his work. So there you have it. There's your history lesson for the day. OK. So let's go back and talk about the psychoanalytic theory. The psychoanalytic theory says that our childhood experiences and unconscious desires influence behavior. So this is a key word for this theory, "unconscious." So our personalities have memories, beliefs, urges, drives, and instincts that we are not always aware of and that make up this unconscious. And the major driving force behind Freud's instinctual theory is the concept of libido. And you may have heard of this in a different context, but we'll go over it in terms of this theory. So libido is natural energy source that fuels the mechanisms of the mind. And when this libidinal energy is stuck or fixated at various stages of psychosexual development-- there's another keyword. So when this fixation occurs at this psychosexual development and stages, conflicts can occur that have lifelong effects. So fixation at a particular stage is what predicts adult personality according to this theory. For example, someone fixated at the oral stage, which is actually the first stage in psychosexual development, might have oral personality characteristics like being overly talkative or having a smoking habit when they grow up. OK. So Freud breaks down those mental structures that I was talking about into three parts. And we can look at this by looking at an iceberg. So let's break this down into two parts first. The top of the iceberg, which is shown up here, above the surface of the water, is the conscious part of our mind. So this is everything we are aware of. And if that's the conscious, what do you think this bottom is? If you said unconscious, you are right. So it's the unconscious mind. And what do you notice? The unconscious is a lot larger than the conscious. You know that saying, it's only the tip of the iceberg that we see? Well, it's true. Most of our mind is hidden below the surface. OK. Let's go into the first structure of our mind. And that is the id. So the id is located down here in this compartment. And it's the unconscious part of our mind that makes up most of the mind. It's hidden below the surface. And it develops right after birth, and demands immediate gratification. Now, the second part of this structure is the ego. So the ego is right here in this compartment. And it's part of our conscious and our unconscious mind. OK. We'll see why that's the case in a little bit. But the ego is involved in our perceptions, thoughts, and judgments. And it seeks long-term gratification as opposed to the id's immediate gratification. In the third compartment, right over here, I'm going to try to fit it in, is the superego. Now, the superego develops around the age of four. And it's our moral compass or our conscience. Don't get that confused with conscious. Conscience, it's a little tongue-twister. OK. So let's go back to these psychosexual stages I was talking about. So our libidinal impulses, right here, are what want to be gratified. And when they are either over-gratified or not gratified at all or partially gratified, fixation occurs at a psychosexual stage, and we face either conflict or anxiety. Now, what I mean by "conflict" is not this whole battle or drama that plays out. But it's a conflict between these three mental structures of our mind, the ego, the superego, and the id. Because all of them are competing for demands, so they're in a conflict. Think of it like this. I'm going to draw out ourselves right here, like that. And there's the rest of us. You get the picture Well, this person has really big arms, but you get the idea. OK. So think of it like this. We have the id sitting on one shoulder over here. And this is us, looking-- we're in little bit of a conflict. OK. So the id is sitting on one shoulder here. And it's really, really upset, because it's demanding gratification and it isn't immediately getting it. Remember, I said it wants immediate gratification. But then, over here, you have the superego. And the superego is sitting on its high horse. And it's preaching to the id about what's moral. And then what about the ego? What happens to the ego? What role does that have? Well, it's going to be in the middle. Because the id wants gratification, and only gratification. And it's going back and forth with the superego. So the ego, right over here, is trying to gratify the id, but it also has to take into account what the superego is saying. The superego is moral oversight, which represents the values of society. Now, remember I said earlier that the ego is part of the conscious and the unconscious minds. So it basically acts as a mediator between the unconscious desires of the id and the moral demands of the superego. So have you ever heard of a Freudian slip? That's actually an example of a mental conflict. So for example, a financially stressed patient tells his doctor, oh, doctor, please don't give me any bills. Well, what he really meant to say was, please don't give me any pills. So this whole process that I went through of the ego, the superego, and the id becoming fixated in psychosexual development due to conflicts is all part of the psychoanalytic theory. And this process is part of personality development for all individuals. But it's especially problematic when there's a problem with gratification in a particular psychosexual stage.