Question Sam Social Sciences

The human psyche

Explain the three parts of the human psyche proposed by Freud?

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Answer Internal Staff

Sigmund Freud was heavily involved in the development of thinking behind what makes up the human psyche. In his structural model of the psyche, Freud (1923) conceptualised that the human mind was structured into three distinct entities: the ego, id and the superego, which all interact with one another and develop at different stages throughout life.

The ‘id’, Freud explained, is an unconscious and impulsive entity within this structure, which is initially fully responsible for the personality of new-born infants. Operating via the ‘pleasure principle’, the id constantly demands satisfaction and gratification, regardless of any potential consequences.

The ‘ego’, defined as “that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world” (Freud, 1923, pg. 25), acts as the more rational, decision-making part of the psyche. It plays a crucial role in attempting to mediate between the unrealistic desires of the id and the individual’s real world external environment. Thus, the ego operates under the ‘reality principle’ in order to nullify the demands of the id and, hence, limit potential negative consequences.

The ‘superego’ develops after a few years and encapsulates moral thinking and values of society. Comprising the conscience and the ideal self, the superego’s main purpose is to control the impulsive id and direct the ego to ensure moralistic behaviour.


Freud, S. (1923). The ego and the id. Standard Edition, 19, 1-66.