The Id: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition of the Id
  • 1:03 Characteristics of the Id
  • 2:07 Relationship of the…
  • 3:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Lisa Roundy

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

Expert Contributor
Jennifer Levitas

Jennifer has a Ph.D. in Psychology. She's taught multiple college-level psychology courses and been published in several academic journals.

The id is one of the three components of personality in Freud's psychoanalytic theory. Learn the characteristics of the id in this lesson, and discover how it interacts with the other components of personality.

Definition of the Id

Let's imagine that you are an infant. At this point, all of your awareness is centered on satisfying basic needs. You feel hungry and you demand food. You want to be touched, so you demand to be held. Since you have no understanding of right or wrong and are not aware of the needs of others, all that exists for you is your desire for what you need or want at any given moment. Most of these desires are based on pure, uncontrolled instinct.

In this example, your actions are controlled by the id. According to Freud, the id is the biological component of our personality which is present at birth and is based on instinct.

In Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic view, the personality consists of three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is the biological component (instinct), the ego is the psychological component (conscious decision), and the superego is the social component (conscience). These three components function together to determine behavior.

Characteristics of the Id

The id exists in your unconscious, or outside of your awareness. Since the id is not part of your awareness, the desires of the id are not manipulated by experience or thought. The other personality components develop with age and experience, but the id never matures and continues to be driven by desire alone. The id does not think but only wants or acts.

Characteristics of the id include:

  • unorganized
  • demanding and insistent
  • illogical
  • lacks morals
  • instinctual
  • selfish
  • unconscious

The id is driven by what is called the pleasure principle, the idea that your needs should be met immediately. When you are hungry, the pleasure principle directs you to eat. When you are thirsty, it motivates you to drink. Tension results when you do not receive instant gratification of all your needs or wants. The id cannot tolerate this tension and puts more pressure on you to satisfy your desire and relieve the tension. This is when other components of your personality come into play.

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Additional Activities

The Id

Activity 1:

You read about the id as described in Freud's psychoanalytic theory in this lesson. You learned that the id is characterized by a lack of organization, being selfish, and behaving immorally. Can you think of anyone who fits this description in your life? Do you know anyone who is "all id," so to speak? Write a journal entry about this person (not using his or her real name) discussing your observations about this person's behavior. Do you think this person has any insight into his or her behavior, or do you think that the person feels justified in feeling and behaving in the way he or she does?

Activity 2:

For this activity, you are a child psychologist from the psychoanalytic perspective. A husband and wife come to you about the behavior of their 6-year-old. This child has always behaved selfishly and has not ever acted in a prosocial, altruistic manner. In preschool the parents noticed that most children acted this way, but at the beginning of elementary school it seems to the parents that other children are developing consciences, thinking about others, and not exclusively acting in their own interests. These parents want to know why their child is behaving this way, and more importantly how to help the child develop into a more moral and socially acceptable person. Design an intervention for the parents of this six-year-old, focusing on how the ego and superego need to be developed in order to balance out the tendencies of the id.

Activity 3:

Reflect on the part of you that is your own id. Do you sometimes notice yourself wanting to be selfish or self-interested, but then overcoming that tendency? Do you notice that you may have instinctive reactions to want something immediately, but then figure out a way to delay that gratification? Write two to three paragraphs about your experiences with the desires of your own id, and how you "tame" these desires so that your behavior is personally and societally acceptable?

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