Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises



core definition

Psychoanalysis is a therapeutic method for treating mental disorders by investigating the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements in the mind with a view to making the subject aware of the unconscious processes.

explanatory context

Freudianism represents the best known development of psychoanalysis. The Freudian approach has been challenged and developed in what has become known as Post-Freudian psychoanalysis of which Lacanian psychoanalysis is one of the best known approaches.


Psychoanalytic theory has been used and developed in other realms such as psychoanalytic feminism, which tends to draw heavily on Lacanian psychoanalysis.

analytical review

Cherry (2019):

Psychoanalysis is defined as a set of psychological theories and therapeutic techniques that have their origin in the work and theories of Sigmund Freud. The core idea at the center of psychoanalysis is the belief that all people possess unconscious thoughts, feelings, desires, and memories. By bringing the content of the unconscious into conscious awareness, people are then able to experience catharsis and gain insight into their current state of mind. Through this process, people are then able to find relief from psychological disturbances and distress.

Basic tenets:

  • The way that people behave is influenced by their unconscious drives
  • The development of personality is heavily influenced by the events of early childhood; Freud suggested that personality was largely set in stone by the age of five.
  • Bringing information from the unconscious into consciousness can lead to catharsis and allow people to deal with the issue
  • People utilize a number of defense mechanisms to protect themselves from information contained in the unconscious
  • Emotional and psychological problems such as depression and anxiety are often rooted in conflicts between the conscious and unconscious mind
  • A skilled analyst can help bring certain aspects of the unconscious into awareness by using a variety of psychoanalytic strategies such as dream analysis and free association


lumen Boundless Psychology website (undated) states:

Freudian Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality

According to Freud's psychoanalytic theory, personality develops through a series of stages, each characterized by a certain internal psychological conflict.


Key Points:

    • Sigmund Freud 's psychoanalytic theory of personality argues that human behavior is the result of the interactions among three component parts of the mind: the id, ego, and superego.
    • This "structural theory" of personality places great importance on how conflicts among the parts of the mind shape behavior and personality. These conflicts are mostly unconscious.
    • According to Freud, personality develops during childhood and is critically shaped through a series of five psychosexual stages, which he called his psychosexual theory of development.
    • During each stage, a child is presented with a conflict between biological drives and social expectations; successful navigation of these internal conflicts will lead to mastery of each developmental stage, and ultimately to a fully mature personality.
    • Freud's ideas have since been met with criticism, in part because of his singular focus on sexuality as the main driver of human personality development.

Neo-Freudian Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality

Neo-Freudian approaches to the study of personality both expanded on and countered Freud's original theories.


Key Points:

    • Over the years, Freud attracted many followers who adapted and modified his psychoanalytic theories to create new theories of personality. These other theorists became known as Neo-Freudians.
    • Neo-Freudians, such as Adler, Horney, Jung, and Erikson, agreed with Freud that childhood experiences matter; however, they expanded on Freud's ideas by focusing on the importance of sociological and cultural influences in addition to biological influences.
    • Alfred Adler was the first to explore and develop a comprehensive social theory of the psychodynamic person and coined the idea of the "inferiority complex."
    • Erik Erikson proposed the psychosocial theory of development, which suggested that an individual's personality develops throughout their lifespan based on a changing emphasis on different social relationships.
    • Two of Carl Jung's major contributions were his ideas of the collective unconscious and the persona.
    • Karen Horney's theories focused on "unconscious anxiety," which she believed stemmed from early childhood experiences of unmet needs, loneliness, and/or isolation.


associated issues

Lumen Boundless Psychology (nd) provides brief outlines of 'notable non-Freudians':

Alfred Adler was the first to explore and develop a comprehensive social theory of the psychodynamic person. He founded a school of psychology called individual psychology, which focuses on our drive to compensate for feelings of inferiority. Adler proposed the concept of the inferiority complex, which describes a person's feelings that they lack worth and don't measure up to the standards of others or of society. He also believed in the importance of social connections, seeing childhood development as emerging through social development rather than via the sexual stages outlined by Freud. From these ideas, Adler identified three fundamental social tasks that all of us must experience: occupational tasks (careers), societal tasks (friendship), and love tasks (finding an intimate partner for a long-term relationship).

Erik Erikson is influential for having proposed the psychosocial theory of development, which suggests that an individual's personality develops throughout the lifespan based on a series of social relationships—a departure from Freud's more biology-oriented view. In his psychosocial theory, Erikson emphasized the social relationships that are important at each stage of personality development, in contrast to Freud's emphasis on sex. Erikson identified eight stages, each of which represents a conflict or developmental task. The development of a healthy personality and a sense of competence depend on the successful completion of each task.

Carl Jung followed in Adler's footsteps by developing a theory of personality called analytical psychology. One of Jung's major contributions was his idea of the collective unconscious, which he deemed a "universal" version of Freud's personal unconscious, holding mental patterns, or memory traces, that are common to all of us (Jung, 1928). These ancestral memories, which Jung called archetypes, are represented by universal themes as expressed through various cultures' literature and art, as well as people's dreams. Jung also proposed the concept of the persona, referring to a kind of "mask" that we adopt based on both our conscious experiences and our collective unconscious. Jung believed this persona served as a compromise between who we really are (our true self) and what society expects us to be; we hide those parts of ourselves that are not aligned with society's expectations behind this mask.

Karen Horney was one of the first women trained as a Freudian psychoanalyst. Horney's theories focused on "unconscious anxiety," which she believed stemmed from early childhood experiences of unmet needs, loneliness, and/or isolation. She theorized three styles of coping that children adopt in relation to anxiety: moving toward people, moving away from people, and moving against people.

Horney was also influential in the advancement of feminism within the field of psychodynamics. Freud has been widely critiqued for his almost exclusive focus on men and for what some perceive as a condescension toward women; for example, Horney disagreed with the Freudian idea that girls have "penis envy" and are jealous of male biological features. According to Horney, any jealousy is most likely due to the greater privileges that males are often given, meaning that the differences between men's and women's personalities are due to the dynamics of culture rather than biology. She further suggested that men have "womb envy" because they cannot give birth.

related areas

See also

Lacanian psychoanalysis

psychoanalytic feminism


Cherry, K., 2019, 'The influence of psychoanalysis on the field of psychology', Verywell Mind, updated 30 March 2019, available at, accessed 13 June 2019.

lumen Boundless Psychology, nd, 'Psychodynamic perspectives on personality', available at, accessed 13 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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