Images of Human Nature Underlying Psychoanalysis

Discuss Images of human nature underlying psychoanalysis, behaviorism and existentialism with specific reference to particular theorists exposing these positions. On what basis can one decide between those positions? Which theory does such an evaluation lead your regard as preferable? Different images of human nature have been the topic of interest for many personality theorists. Different perspectives and viewpoints have arisen through the ages.

Three main movements which will be discussed are psychoanalysis, behaviorism and existentialism.

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Three personality theorists which have contributed to each of the movements are Sigmund Freud, B. F Skinner and Rollo May. Human nature can be described as the shared psychological attributes of human kind that are shared by all beings. The Psychoanalytical theory developed by Sigmund Freud attempts to explain human nature or personality as focusing on unconscious determinants of behavior.

Freud’s theories were built around how the human mind works and how human behavior results from his understanding. Freud places emphasis on the unconscious mind in understanding conscious thought and behavior.

Freud’s understand was that dreams were the royal road to the unconscious understanding. The unconscious being feelings, thoughts and emotions which the conscious has hidden. Freud divided the individual psych into three parts. The first part he named the ID.

The Id is the child like portion of the psych. It is very impulsive and aims to fulfill pleasures. The ID does not regard consequences. The super-ego is the moral backbone of the psych. It allows the psych to choose between right or wrong. The ego is the balance between the two.

The ego is portrayed through the individual’s behavior. Freud places emphasis on anxiety an attribute which all humans’ experience. Freud proposes the existence of defense mechanisms in the unconscious to protect the individual from experiencing anxiety or guilt. An example of a defense mechanism is repression. Which is the forcing of a feeling, thought or memory from the conscious to be hidden in the unconscious? This is done to maintain homeostasis. B.

F Skinners approach to describing human nature differs from that of Freuds.

Behaviorism does not focus on internal events like psychoanalysis. Instead it uses a scientific approach to focus on observable behavior. Skinner’s “radical behaviorism” began in the 1950’s. It focuses on how external environment shapes behavior.

Skinner’s view of personality was that it was a collection of response tendencies, each for a particular person in particular situations. Skinner proposed that Operant Conditioning was the reason for this. Operant conditioning is a form of learning by which individuals voluntary Reponses come to be controlled by their consequences.

Through case studies Skinner found that organisms are likely to repeat those Reponses with favorable outcomes. Thus shaping individuals personality.

Skinner called these positive reinforces. Reinforcement was a theory which Skinner proposed as a way of reducing anxiety. Skinner agreed with Freud that anxiety was a drive. Anything that provokes anxiety is learned as a habit to avoided called neurotic symptoms. Existentialist psychology is the newest movement in psychology.

It was brought forward by Rollo May in the 1960’s.

Its focus is on human beings and their uniqueness of their inner lives and how that is reflected in there interaction with the world. Rollo Mays theories are ideographic meaning the involve studying the individual. Existentialism is concerned with person’s feelings, moods and experiences. Rollo May used a phenomological method to explore the individuals consciousness.

Mays theories focus on themes of meaning and existence such as love, freedom, destiny, creativity. May describes human dilemma as individuals viewing themselves as both subject and object at the same time that things happen to.

May states that Intentionality is the dichotomy between subject and object and all mental and emotional experiences are related to object. May discusses anxiety but distinguishes between different types. Normal anxiety is described as being necessary for personal growth and development.

Neurotic anxiety is when someone gives up on personal growth and development in the name of safety and security. This leads to feelings of guilt. Although each of the 3 theories psychoanalysis, behaviorism and existentialism all differ greatly. There are many themes of human nature which apply to each.

The first is behavior.

Behaviorists describe behavior as individual patterns that can be described or predicted. Psychoanalysts describe behavior as a product of the past which is active in the present and due to the unconscious is usually uncontrollable. Existentialists believe that humans are products of the present and cannot hide from the past. Which disagrees Freud’s unconscious theory? Motivation is another theme explained. Behaviorists describe motivation as physical or psychological drives that need to be fulfilled such as thirst. Psychoanalysts describe it as unresolved unconscious drives.

Existentialists believe that motivation is due to the force of being liberated by freedom. After reviewing all three theories. I can see how each applies to different aspects of personality and describing aspects of human nature. I personally think that I find behaviorism preferable. For the reason that observable traits can be measured and it is plausible that they exist because they can be seen.

I am not dismissing the other theories as untrue but they involve aspects of the unconscious which I cannot determine as true because they cannot be seen.