Id, Ego, and Superego

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian physician who came up with the psychoanalytic theory.  He believed that unconscious forces influence our behaviors.  Freud’s approach tended to be more sexual in nature than other psychoanalytic theorists like Erikson, so his theory is known as a psychosexual approach.  According to Freud, there are three parts of our personality (Berk, 2013; Feldman, 2014).


The id is 100% unconscious.  We aren’t aware it’s there.  It’s like the little devil on your shoulder.  The id demands immediate gratification.  It wants to get pleasure and avoid pain.  It operates according to the pleasure principle. This inborn drive is present at birth (Bennett, 2019; Feldman, 2014).  When a three-month old girl wakes up in middle of night crying, she doesn’t think that her crying will wake people up, and that now her mom will be really tired because she has to get up to feed her.  She’s hungry so she cries for food.  Have you ever seen the TV show Survivor?  Whenever a contestant steals food that’s supposed to be for the whole tribe that’s their id in action.  It’s the primitive drive for pleasure even though the tribe always finds out and kicks you off, so in the long-term it’s a dumb thing to do.


The ego is the part of our personality that is reasonable and rational.  If there’s a cartoon character with the devil and the angel on each shoulder, the ego is trying to satisfy them both and serves as the executive.  It operates on the reality principle.  We restrain our instincts to fit in to society (Berk, 2013; Feldman, 2014).


If the id is the devil the Superego is the angel.  It’s our conscience telling us to do the right thing.  By five or six years old we have formed our conscience as a result of our parents, teachers, and other important people around us.  Our superego judges us.  If we do something wrong and we give in to our id the superego makes us feel guilty (Bennett, 2019; Berk, 2013; Feldman, 2014).



Bennett, C. (2019). The id, ego, and superego as literary criticism. Retrieved from

Berk, L. E. (2013). Child development (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Feldman, R. S. (2014). Child development: A topical approach. Boston, MA: Pearson.