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Freud and Behaviourist's Theories

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Freud and Behaviourist's Theories In the late 19th and early 20th Century, there were many important theories developed explaining, or trying to explain, human behaviour and personality development. In this essay, I aim to compare and contrast the Freudian Theory and the Theories of the Behaviourists. These were some of the main theories constructed with aims at looking at the way our behaviour is, or isn't, controlled by our personality. The way I have decided to structure this essay is to firstly describe each theory separately. I will make my comparisons between the two theories and finally I will conclude with some criticisms aimed at each theory. Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939) dedicated his life to developing his 'Psychoanalytic Theory'. This theory comprises of several different factors; each one contributing to our mental make up, thus governing our actions, thoughts and behaviour. He completed the theory in 1926, at the age of 70, although he continued to re-present it, rethink its implications and apply it in new ways until his death. (Padel, 1987.) One of the factors making up his theory was the 'levels of mind'. Freud said that it was as if the mind was separated into three sections. These sections being the 'conscious' mind, the 'pre-conscious' mind and the 'unconscious mind'. The first section, the conscious mind, being our awake state or our state of awareness. It is this section of our mind that we use when we are consciously thinking about something of which we are aware. The next section is the pre-conscious mind. ...read more.


Freud said that personality development started around this time of potty training. Then came a stage Freud called the 'Phallic Stage'. He said between the ages of three to around five or six years the child became aware of its genitals and this is the area the child now receives pleasure from. During this stage Freud claimed that the child learns its sex role and becomes almost sexually attracted to the opposite sex parent while at the same time becoming more aggressive to the same sex parent. The child sees the same sex parent as a threat. Calling this the 'Oedipus Complex' Freud said a child would unknowingly be willing participant in incest cases, if the parent had an ill-constructed superego that didn't prevent them from doing so. Following this period is a period of 'latency' where the child focuses on such tasks as going to school. The sexual energies are diverted and instead the energy from the 'libido' is used for cognitive and social development. Nothing much happens to the personality during this period, although the child is unconsciously preparing for the next stage, the 'Genital Stage'. This is when the child reaches sexual maturity and is between the ages of 12 to 18 years. Most species on reaching sexual maturity start to mate, however, we as humans are forced to inhibit our natural, sexual instincts. During this stage, there may be a break down in parental authority as the child develops its own adult relationships. ...read more.


However, each of these can influence and have an effect on personality development. Whereas the behaviourists believe that personality is fabricated. They say that we are products of our environment and that our personality is learnt as according to what we see and hear. Criticisms have been aimed at Freud because it has been claimed that his conclusions were often based on his own experiences and that because of his undoubted charisma, he was able to persuade his colleagues to reach the same conclusions as himself. He has also been criticised because his data was collected from his patients, most of whom were abnormal in some way and were all adult. Freud observed no children directly. It has, therefore, been doubted as to the validity of his making generalisations based on an abnormal popularity. (Radford and Govier.) Criticisms have been aimed at the behaviourists on the grounds that as an account of development, conditioning is general rather than specific and the debate continues as to whether or not the two types of conditioning are really just different versions of the same process. Although there have been some experiments on children, most of the principles identified stem mainly from experiments on animals. However, recent studies on children have shown the importance of conditioning from an early age. A safe conclusion, therefore, would be that the conditioning process may have an effect on development. It seems likely however, that whatever the importance of conditioning, there are other factors involved. (Radford and Govier. ...read more.

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4 star(s)

For GCSE level this is a very good essay on Freud and Behaviourism. The writer has covered a great deal of detail, especially with regard to Freud. The latter part of the essay is a little less organised but many of the salient points have been included. The essay needs more organisation when explaining behaviourism to improve the score. However, overall this is a very good GCSE level essay which summarises succinctly both Freud and Behaviourism.

Overall 4 *

Marked by teacher Linda Penn 08/05/2013

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