- Where Psychology Becomes Easy

Psychology Unit 2

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Unit 2 Psychodynamic Approach Revision

The Psychodynamic Approach spec: Download spec


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Key Features:

The importance of the unconscious mind

  • 9/10ths of our mind is unconscious
  • Our unconscious dreams and desires are important in influences our behaviour, we cannot access them (this is because they are unacceptable and the moral arts of our mind keep them away)

The importance of early experience

  • Our personality is formed in the first 5 years (the formative years)
  • The personality is made up of the ID, Ego and the Superego

Levels of consciousness:

The conscious mind: thoughts and memories we’re aware of.

The preconscious mind: those that we can become aware may need cues or triggers to access them, as they aren’t always available.

The unconscious mind: the thoughts and memories we cannot access directly, we repress these unconscious memories.

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Key parts of Freud’s theory:
  • Unconscious, conscious, preconscious
  • Freudian Slips
  • Dreams
  • Defence Mechanisms
  • Personality structure
  • Psychosexual stages of development
  • The unconscious mind:  
      - The thoughts, ideas, emotions and memories we cannot access directly. They make up 90% of our mind, and have a powerful influence on our behaviour. They are active and trying to find a means of expression. We repress these unconscious thoughts, which take up energy.
  • The conscious mind:  
      - Thoughts, ideas, emotions and memories of which we are fully aware.
  • The preconscious mind:  
      - Those that we can become aware of, although at the time we may not be aware of them. (They are brought back into the conscious)
Unconscious mind:

  • Libido: the life urge/instinct that manifests itself as sexuality
  • Thanatos: the death urge/instinct, that manifests itself as aggression and destructiveness

How does the unconscious mind manifest itself?

  • There is no logic, opposite feelings exist without conflict
  • Doesn’t distinguish between real events and dreams/fantasies
  • It expresses itself though our behaviour, with slips of the tongue, unexplainable feelings, dreams, irrational behaviour
  • Many of these unconscious impulses are either sexual or aggressive, as Freud explained through libido and Thanatos.

A Freudian slip or parapraxis is an error in speech, memory or physical action that is believed to be caused by the unconscious mind.

The Structure of Personality

ID – 0-1 years of age

The pleasure principle

This shows the wishes, wants and desires, the demands to be satisfied.

The ID is in the unconscious state and in that the demands are not conscious – a baby knows what it wants but not consciously.

Ego – 2-3 years of age

The Reality principle

The ego is the decision maker between the ID and the Superego

The ego is the rational part of the personality.

Superego – 3-5 years of age

The morality principle

Taught your morals from your parents (how we should behave)

Goes directly against the ID

The superego is made up of the conscience, given to individuals by their parents and society as what’s ‘right’ and what’s ‘wrong’

The ego ideal is the idea that people have of what they should be life, given by parents/society


When a person's ID outweighs their SUPEREGO:

A persons traits would be: spoilt, greedy, selfish, high-maintenance (if the ID has stronger influence that the superego)

This occurs when the ego hasn’t found a balance.

When a person's SUPEREGO outweighs their ID:

A persons traits would be: kind, compassionate, too nice, generous, caring about everyone else’s feelings (if the superego has a stronger influence than the ID)

The ego has failed to find a balance and therefore the superego is dominant.

Evaluation of Freud’s: Personality Structure.

+ It successfully describes the human experience of being pulled in different directions

+ Jarvis 2003, said it’s the most complete theory as it shows the influences of instinct, logic and society.

- The concepts are very abstract and therefore difficult to study and prove.

Freud’s Five Stages of Psychosexual Development

Oral - 0-1 years

The mouth is the focus of pleasure

The Id is present. The ego and superego is undeveloped.

Key behaviours: babies take in food, pleasure and knowledge of the world though their mouth.

Fixation may occur if… a person experiences a trauma in the first year, either stopping nursing too soon or too late, they may become fixated in the oral stage.

Adult personalities if a fixation occurs: dependant, talking excessively, smoking, and biting nails, or over eating.

Anal – 2-3 years

The anus is the focus of pleasure

The Ego has now developed.

Key behaviours: the child now understands conflict and Freud believed this came to a head at potty training, in which an adult sets rules.

Fixation may occur if… potty training is too harsh or starts too early

Adult personalities if a fixation occurs: stubbornness, orderliness, lack of generosity.

Phallic - 3-6 years

The genitals are the focus of pleasure

The superego is the main personality structure

Key behaviours: children start to focus on the opposite gender parents. They are now aware of their own gender.

Fixation may occur if… there is a lack of identification

Adult personalities if a fixation occurs: homosexuality, authority problems, rejection of appropriate gender roles, self-assured, reckless, and vain, proud behaviour.

The Oedipus complex:

Freud found that there was often a problem with parents, the ‘sexual problem’. A boy ‘unconsciously’ identifies with his father in order to possess his mother. Castration fear occurs, as the boy would believe his father would castrate him because of his feelings for his mother.

The Elektra complex: -wasn’t developed by Freud

Explains what happens to girls, and how they have feelings for their fathers. They understand they do not have a penis and they develop penis envy. Not as strong as the castration fear, she focuses on her father as she knows he has a penis and wants a substitute.

Evaluations of Freud’s five stages of psychosexual development:

+ Allowed treatments for mental illnesses that were untreated at the time

+ Use of case studies allows valid data to be gathered ad in-depth analysis to take place

- Any findings wouldn’t be generalisable because the data is individualistic

- Method requires interpretation and is difficult to achieve objectivity

- The sample is biased

- Theory is limited as it stops at adolescence.

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Latency – 6years-puberty

Key behaviour: boys tend to play with boys, and girls tend to play with girls, they don’t generally mix.

Genital – puberty

Key behaviour: likely to develop feelings for the opposite sex.

This box is not important to learn

Studies in detail

Describe and evaluate two studies in detail relating to Freud’s theory. One study must be Freud’s study of Little Hans (1909) and one other study. 

The other study picked was:

Axline V (1964/1990) Dibs: Personality Development in Play Therapy

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Defence Mechanisms:

According to Freud the ego can be very fragile especially if it has been weakened. This may happen because of problems encountered as a child. The superego places high demand on the ego using the ego ideal to set minimum standards of behaviour. In order to protect the ego from the demands of the ID and protect the conscious mind from the unconscious mind, defence mechanisms are put in to place.

Freud did a lot of work with mentally ill patients with anxieties or phobias. Anxiety can be triggered if the ego feels it will fail to meet the pleasure demands of the ID or moral demands of the superego.

Repression: pushing unwanted memories, truth, feelings, and emotions in to the unconscious mind.

Denial: refusal to accept the truth

Displacement: choosing a substitute object for the expression of you true feelings, because you can’t expect them to the real target

Regression: reverting to childlike behaviour as an adult e.g. thumb sucking/not accepting responsibility.

Evaluation of Freud’s theory of defence mechanisms:

+Everyday examples provide evidence of such things occurring, repression is a well-known phenomenon. When explained to people and they understand that a mechanism is at work, they feel better.

-It is difficult to test the idea of defence mechanisms scientifically. They are not measurable and need interpretation because they are about the individuals; some people are different to another group of people.