Structure of Personality

Psychoanalytic personality theory describes how people cope with their sexual and aggressive instincts within the constraints of a civilized society . Sexual and aggressive instincts often lead to drives and ur ges that conflict with society and with real ity. One part of the mind creates these urges, another part has a sense of what civilized society expects, and another part tries to satisfy the ur ges within the bounds of reality and society . How is it that the mind can have so many parts, and how do these parts work together to form personality?

A metaphor may be helpful in answering this question. Think of the mind as a plumbing system, which contains water under pressure. The pressure is the metaphor presented. Obviously, a lot of emotional processing occurs at some level in the brain that does not involve the primary visual center. People could have feelings about (i.e., like or dislike) something that they are not even aware of.

Another example of the unconscious at work concerns the phenomenon of deliberation-without-awareness, or the "let me sleep on it" effect. The notion here is, if a person confronted with a difficult decision can put it out of their conscious mind for a period of time, then their unconscious mind will continue to deliberate on it outside of their awareness, helping them to arrive at a "sudden" and often correct decision sometime later. This is sometimes called "unconscious decision-making."

The phenomenon of unconscious decision-making was the topic of several clever studies recently published in the prestigious journal Science by a team of Dutch researchers (Dijksterhuis, Bos, Nordgren, and van Baaren, 2006). These researchers hypothesized that, for simple decisions, conscious deliberation would work best, but when decisions were complex, involving many factors, then unconscious deliberation would work best. They presented subjects with the task of deciding on the best car out of four different cars. Subjects in the simple condition considered four attributes of the cars, whereas subjects in the complex condition considered 12 attributes of the cars. In all cases, one car was characterized by 75 percent positive attributes (i.e., the best car), two by 50 percent positive attributes, and one by 25 percent positive attributes. After reading all the information about the cars, half of the subjects were assigned to the conscious deliberation condition and the other half were assigned to the unconscious deliberation condition. In the conscious deliberation condition subjects were asked to think about the information for four minutes before deciding on the best car. In the unconscious deliberation condition, subjects were distracted for four minutes by being asked to solve anagram puzzles, then immediately asked to decide on the best car.

As shown in Figure 9.2, in the simple decision condition, with only four attributes to consider on each car, subjects who consciously deliberated made the best decisions. However, when

Figure 9.2

Percentage of participants who chose the most desirable car as a function of complexity of decision and mode of thought.

Figure 9.2

Percentage of participants who chose the most desirable car as a function of complexity of decision and mode of thought.

the decision was complex, involving 12 different attributes of the cars, subjects in the "unconscious" deliberation condition made the best decisions. The authors demonstrate similar effects in three additional studies. Even though the studies concern consumer items (e.g., cars), there is reason to believe that the unconscious deliberation effect might apply to any type of decision, e.g., what career path to pursue, who to vote for, who to marry, etc. The authors (Dijksterhuis et al., 2006) argue that, with any decision, it would "benefit the individual to think consciously about simple matters and to delegate thinking about more complex matters to the unconscious" (p. 1007).

for the psychic ener gy from the sexual and aggressive instincts, which builds up and demands release. According to Freud's theory, when it comes to this internal pressure, there are three schools of plumbing: one plumber suggests that we open all the valves at the slightest pressure, another of fers ways to redirect the pressure so that the strain is relieved without making much of a mess, and the third plumber wants to keep all the valves closed. Let' s discuss each of these "psychic plumbers" in some detail, using Freud's terminology.

Eliminating Stress and Anxiety From Your Life

Eliminating Stress and Anxiety From Your Life

It seems like you hear it all the time from nearly every one you know I'm SO stressed out!? Pressures abound in this world today. Those pressures cause stress and anxiety, and often we are ill-equipped to deal with those stressors that trigger anxiety and other feelings that can make us sick. Literally, sick.

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