Major Movements in Psychology - Psychoanalytic Theory

8 important questions on Major Movements in Psychology - Psychoanalytic Theory

What is psychoanalytic theory?

While behaviorism dominated American academic psychology throughout the first half of the twentieth century, psychoanalysis dominated clinical psychology - the study of abnormal psychology - during the same period both in Europe and the United States.

Psychoanalysis was so prominent because it provided a psychological method of treating mental distress.

Did Freud change his theory over time?

Freud changed his theories several times over the course of his long career.

What is Freud's topological model?

In Freud's topological model, the mind is divided into three sections:

  1. Unconscious
  2. Preconscious
  3. Conscious

In the unconscious, the individual is not aware of the contents of the mind. In the pre-conscious, mental content is capable of entering into consciousness but is not currently there. The conscious part of the mind contains all the mental content that is in our awareness. It is very small compared to the unconscious.

What is Freud's theory of Libido?

Throughout his career Freud maintained a theory of libido as the primary motivating force behind all human behavior. Libido refers to all aspects of sensual pleasure.

In Freud's view, instincts press for release as part of the pleasure principle. Pleasure is only attained when tension is reduced through release of instinctual energy. If the instinct is blocked from release, it will seek another outlet, much like a river running downstream.

This mechanistic view of human motivation was called the hydraulic model and reflects the scientific models of the day.

What did Freud say about Thanatos, the death instinct?

Following the carnage of World War I, Freud added Thanatos to his theory of instincts. Thanatos, the death instinct, explains human destructiveness.

Because pleasure can only be found through the reduction of tension, there must be a drive to reach a state of total quiescence, a state of no tension at all. This is the equivalent of death, hence the death instinct.

We now realize that pleasure comes from the build-up of tension as well the release of tension.

Why was Freud so focused on Sex?

While the focus on sex may seem odd to modern eyes, it is important to consider Freud in the context of his own time. Over time, however, much of Freud's theories, including the theory of libido and of psychosexual stages, were translated into emotional and interpersonal terms.

How is Freudian theory seen today?

Since the inception of psychoanalysis, Freud has always had passionate loyalists and detractors. Psychoanalysis has been trashed as all hocuspocus; Freud's writings have also been treasured as the bible and seen as infallible. To some extent this is still the case today.

However, many advanced in our understanding of behavior and of the brain have shown that Freud was often onto something, although he was wrong in many of the specifics.

Modern neuroscience, for example, has revealed the frontal lobe and the limbic system to function dramatically similarly to the ego and the id.

How was psychoanalytic theory changed over the years?

Arguably, the integration of psychoanalytic concepts with advances in neuroscience currently forms the cutting edge of psychoanalytic theory.

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