Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory on Instincts, Motivation, Personality & Development

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  • 0:05 Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory
  • 0:27 Three Levels of Consciousness
  • 0:47 Id, Superego, and Ego
  • 2:48 Instinct and Motivation
  • 3:38 Freud's Psychosexual…
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Learn how Sigmund Freud's theories helped shape our modern understanding of human motivation and personality development. Review key terms and take a quiz at the end of the lesson to test your knowledge.

Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory

Sigmund Freud is one of the most famous names in psychology. Even though most of his ideas have been abandoned by modern psychology, his psychoanalytic theory formed the basis for many current psychodynamic theories. Freud was the first to discuss the unconscious mind and its role in human behavior.

Three Levels of Consciousness

Freud believed that there were three levels of consciousness. First is the unconscious mind, which exists outside of your awareness at all times. Next is the preconscious mind, which includes all information that you are not currently aware of but that can be recalled. Finally, the conscious mind is your current state of awareness.

Id, Superego, and Ego

Remember the cartoons you used to watch as a child? The main character is confronted with a choice. On his left shoulder is a little devil pushing him toward a bad choice. On his right shoulder, a little angel is encouraging him to make a good choice. He is stuck in the middle and forced to make a decision that will affect him.

This scenario is much like Freud's theory of personality. There are three parts to the personality according to Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory. These are the id, superego, and ego. The id is the first to develop, the ego is second, and the superego is the last to develop.

The id is the biological component of the personality and includes your instincts. The id operates in our unconscious mind. It is like the little devil sitting on the cartoon character's shoulder that is always selfish and needy. It operates according to the pleasure principle. The pleasure principle is the idea that all of your needs should be met immediately.

Then there is the superego. The superego exists in all three levels of consciousness. The superego is like the little angel. It is always concerned with what is socially acceptable. The superego pushes you to obtain the ego ideal, or your view of what is right. It also represents your conscience, or your view of what is considered to be wrong.

Finally, we have the ego. The ego operates in your preconscious and conscious mind. The ego is the part of the personality that makes your decisions; this is like the cartoon character in the example. The ego is in the middle, makes the decision, and faces the consequences.

The ego operates according to the reality principle. The reality principle is the idea that the desires of the id must be satisfied in a method that is both socially appropriate and realistic. The ego must mediate the demands of the id, the superego, and reality.

Instinct and Motivation According to Freud

You now know how our consciousness interacts to determine behavior according to Freud, but what motivates our behavior? The answer to this is that we are motivated by our instincts.

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