Glossary - Old School, New School

30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011

Old School, New School

anthropology The study of humankind. Areas covered include the origins and development of the human species, its biological characteristics, belief structures and social customs. Although the subject was discussed by Herodotus as long ago as 500 BC, it only became a discipline in its own right during the Renaissance, with the writings of Michel de Montaigne, René Descartes and Immanuel Kant. The term comes from the Greek anthropos (human) and logos (science) and was coined in Germany in the sixteenth century.

consciousness The totality of experience of which a person is aware at any one moment. This is a constantly shifting state, moving between current thought processes, memory, visual and aural stimuli and physical experiences. The US psychologist William James said consciousness was like a stream, constantly chopping and changing direction, but essentially continuous.

Ego According to Freud, this is the conscious, rational part of personality. He saw the human psyche as being made up of three parts: the Id, which seeks instant gratification, the Superego, which makes moral judgments, and the Ego, which mediates between the first two. It does so using the ’reality principle’, which compels us to abide by current social norms. Freud said the Id was like a horse and the Ego like a man riding the horse and controlling its wilder instincts.

Id According to Freud, this is the instinctive, unconscious aspect of human personality that seeks immediate gratification. Its primitive impulses are restrained and controlled by the Ego. Although the Id is often associated with negative and antisocial behaviour, it is also responsible for instincts that are essential for our survival, such as hunger and thirst, as well as the reproductive urge.

neuroscience The study of the nervous system, including the brain functions and how they relate to human behaviour. Ultimately the task of neuroscientists is to discover the functions of all parts of the brain, what mental processes they perform and how they are affected by external stimuli. Once a branch of biology, it is now regarded as an interdisciplinary science which covers several other disciplines, such as psychology, medicine and computer science.

neurosis A mild mental disorder characterized by anxiety and phobias, but not so extreme that the patient suffers from delusions or hallucinations. According to Freud, the condition is part of the Ego’s self-defence mechanism and is triggered by unresolved inner conflicts. Although once a common diagnosis, the term is no longer used in mainstream psychiatry, apart from specific use in psychoanalytic practice and theory.

neurotic A person who suffers from neurosis, or having the symptoms of neurosis. Symptoms include hysteria, obsessive-compulsiveness and a long list of phobias, such as agoraphobia (fear of having a panic attack in a public space) and arachnophobia (fear of spiders).

pathogenic Causing disease, or being capable of causing disease. From the Greek pathos (disease) and genesis (creation).

personality conflict A clash between different aspects of someone’s personality. According to Freud, the primitive instincts of the Id are in constant conflict with the self-conscious moralizing of the Superego and have to be mediated by the rationalism of the Ego. If this conflict is unresolved, it can lead to neurosis.

primatology The study of primates. Although primatology is a separate discipline from psychology, there is some overlap in the study of social groups and aspects of personality.

stimulus error The tendency for patients, during ’introspection’, to name the objects they were visualizing rather than describing what those objects meant to them. Thus, just stating the presence of an apple is less informative than describing the shape and colour of the apple and what feelings they evoke. Introspection was used in the early days of psychiatry to describe a patient’s conscious mind.

Superego According to Freud, that part of the personality that makes moral judgments and acts as our conscience. The Superego is mainly unconscious and formed through the internalization of one’s parents’ and society’s moral codes. An over-strong Superego can lead a person to be moralistic and uncompromising towards other people.