Psyche (psychology)

In psychology, the psyche /ˈsaɪki/ is the totality of the human mind, conscious and unconscious. Psychology is the scientific or objective study of the psyche. The word has a long history of use in psychology and philosophy, dating back to ancient times, and represents one of the fundamental concepts for understanding human nature from a scientific point of view. The English word soul is sometimes used synonymously, especially in older texts.[1]


The basic meaning of the Greek word ψυχή (psyche) was "life" in the sense of "breath", formed from the verb ψύχω (psycho, "to blow"). Derived meanings included "spirit", "soul", "ghost", and ultimately "self" in the sense of "conscious personality" or "psyche".[2][3] The association of "spirit" and "breath" is not unique to Greek or western cultures. The Chinese character for "spirit", "soul" is 魂 (hún, simplified) which is the merging of 云 (yún) and 鬼 (guǐ). 云 is commonly used as "clouds" but also as "breath" in expressions such as 吞云吐雾 (smoking or vaping). 鬼 is simply "ghost" or "spirit". The linkages between "spirit" and "breath" were formed independently by ancient people who at the time did not have any real contact with one another.

Ancient psychology

The idea of the psyche is central to the philosophy of Plato. In his Phaedo, Plato has Socrates give four arguments for the immortality of the soul and life after death following the separation of the soul from the body.[4] Plato's Socrates also states that after death the Psyche is better able to achieve wisdom and experience the Platonic forms since it is unhindered by the body.[5]

The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote an influential treatise on the psyche, called in Greek Περὶ Ψυχῆς (Peri Psyches), in Latin De Anima and in English On the Soul. Aristotle's theory of the "three souls (psyches)" (vegetal, animal, and rational) would rule the field of psychology until the 19th century. Prior to Aristotle, a number of Greek writings used the term psyche in a less precise sense.[6] In late antiquity, Galenic medicine developed the idea of three "spirits" (pneuma) corresponding to Aristotle's three souls. The pneuma psychikon corresponded to the rational soul. The other two pneuma were the pneuma physicon and the pneuma zoticon.

Medieval psychology

The term psyche was Latinized to anima, which became one of the basic terms used in medieval psychology. Anima would have traditionally been rendered in English as "soul" but in modern usage the term "psyche" is preferable.[7]


19th century psychologists such as Franz Brentano developed the concept of the psyche in a more subjective direction.


In psychoanalysis and other forms of depth psychology, the psyche refers to the forces in an individual that influence thought, behavior and personality.[8]

Freudian school

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, believed that the psyche—he used the word Seele ('soul', but also 'psyche') throughout his writings—was composed of three components:[9]

  • The id, which represents the instinctual drives of an individual and remains largely unconscious.
  • The super-ego, which represents a person's conscience and their internalization of societal norms and morality.
  • The ego, which is conscious and serves to integrate the drives of the id with the prohibitions of the super-ego. Freud believed this conflict to be at the heart of neurosis.

Freud's original terms for the three components of the psyche, in German, were das Es (lit. the 'It'), das Ich (lit. the 'I'), and das Über-Ich (lit. the 'Over-I' or 'Upper-I'). According to Bruno Bettelheim, the Latin terms were proposed by Freud's English translators, probably to make them seem more 'medical' since, at the time, Latin was prevalent in medical terminology. Bettelheim deplores what he sees as pseudoscientific, Latin terms.[10]

Jungian school

Carl Jung wrote much of his work in German. Difficulties for translation arise because the German word Seele means both psyche and soul. Jung was careful to define what he meant by psyche and by soul.

I have been compelled, in my investigations into the structure of the unconscious, to make a conceptual distinction between soul and psyche. By psyche, I understand the totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as unconscious. By soul, on the other hand, I understand a clearly demarcated functional complex that can best be described as a "personality". (Jung, 1971: Def. 48 par. 797)

[The translation of the German word Seele presents almost insuperable difficulties on account of the lack of a single English equivalent and because it combines the two words "psyche" and "soul" in a way not altogether familiar to the English reader. For this reason some comment by the Editors will not be out of place.]

[In previous translations, and in this one as well, psyche—for which Jung in the German original uses either Psyche or Seele—has been used with reference to the totality of all psychic processes (cf. Jung, Psychological Types, Def. 48); i.e., it is a comprehensive term. Soul, on the other hand, as used in the technical terminology of analytical psychology, is more restricted in meaning and refers to a "function complex" or partial personality and never to the whole psyche. It is often applied specifically to "anima" and "animus"; e.g., in this connection it is used in the composite word "soul-image" (Seelenbild). This conception of the soul is more primitive than the Christian one with which the reader is likely to be more familiar. In its Christian context it refers to "the transcendental energy in man" and "the spiritual part of man considered in its moral aspect or in relation to God." ... — Editors.] (Jung, 1968: note 2 par. 9)

Cognitive psychology

The word "mind" is preferred by cognitive scientists to "psyche". The mind is a set of cognitive faculties including consciousness, perception, thinking, judgement, language and memory. It is usually defined as the faculty of an entity's thoughts and consciousness. ["mind – definition of mind in English | Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 2017-05-08] It holds the power of imagination, recognition, and appreciation, and is responsible for processing feelings and emotions, resulting in attitudes and actions Mind.

See also


  1. ^ Hillman J (T Moore, Ed.) (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. New York, NY, USA: HarperPerennial. p. 20.
  2. ^ Henry George Liddell and Ridley Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon entry "psyche".
  3. ^ See p.187-197, 204 of François, Alexandre (2008), "Semantic maps and the typology of colexification: Intertwining polysemous networks across languages", in Vanhove, Martine (ed.), From Polysemy to Semantic change: Towards a Typology of Lexical Semantic Associations, Studies in Language Companion Series, 106, Amsterdam, New York: Benjamins, pp. 163–215.
  4. ^ Plato, Phaedo 69e-84b.
  5. ^ Plato, Phaedo 59c-69e
  6. ^ Cf. Rohde, Psyche, Chapters I and VII. Also see the myth of Eros and Psyche, where Psyche was the embodiment of the soul.
  7. ^ Simon Kemp, Medieval Psychology; Simon Kemp, Cognitive Psychology in the Middle Ages; Anthony Kenny Aquinas on Mind.
  8. ^ Cf. Reed, Edward S., 1998, on the narrowing of the study of the psyche into the study of the mind. Especially Preface, page xv.
  9. ^ Reber, Arthur S.; Reber, Emily S. (2001). Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Penguin Reference. ISBN 0-14-051451-1.
  10. ^ Freud and Man's Soul, Vintage Books, 1984, pp.52-62.


Further reading

Body image

Body image is a person's perception of the aesthetics or sexual attractiveness of their own body. It involves how a person sees themselves, compared to the standards that have been set by society. The Austrian neurologist and psychoanalyst Paul Schilder coined the phrase body-image in his book The Image and Appearance of the Human Body (1935).Human society has at all times placed great value on beauty of the human body, but a person's perception of their own body may not correspond to society's standards.

The concept of body image is used in a number of disciplines, including psychology, medicine, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, philosophy, cultural and feminist studies; the media also often uses the term . Across these disciplines and media there is no consensus definition, but body image may be expressed as how people view themselves in the mirror, or in their minds. It incorporates the memories, experiences, assumptions, and comparisons of one's own appearance, and overall attitudes towards one's height, shape, and weight. An individual's impression of their body is also assumed to be a product of ideals cultivated by various social and cultural ideals.

The issues surrounding body image can be examined through body negativity and through body positivity. Negative body image consists of a disoriented view of one's shape; whereby one may often feel self-conscious or feel ashamed, and assume others are more attractive. Aside from having low self-esteem, sufferers typically fixate on altering their physical appearances. Long-term behavior could thus potentially lead to higher risks of eating disorders, isolation, and mental illnesses. Having a negative body-image may lead to a more serious mental illness such as body dysmorphic disorder: "Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), occasionally still called dysmorphophobia, is a mental disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that some aspect of one's own body part or appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix their dysmorphic part on their person..."

Positive body image on the other hand, is described as a clear true perception of one's figure. In addition to celebrating and appreciating the body, it also requires an understanding that an individual's appearance does not reflect their character or self-worth.A 2007 report by the American Psychological Association found that a culture-wide sexualization of girls and women was contributing to increased female anxiety associated with body image. An Australian government Senate Standing Committee report on the sexualization of children in the media reported similar findings associated with body image. However, other scholars have expressed concern that these claims are not based on solid data.Body image can have a wide range of psychological effects and physical effects. Throughout history, it has been extremely difficult for people to live up to the standards of society and what they believe the ideal body is. Many factors contribute to a person's body image; some of these include: family dynamics, mental illness, biological predispositions and environmental causes for obesity or malnutrition, and cultural expectations (e.g., media and politics). People who are either underweight or overweight can have poor body image. However, when people are constantly told and shown the cosmetic appeal of weight loss and are warned about the risks of obesity, those who are normal or overweight on the BMI scale have higher risks of poor body image. This is something that can lead to a change in a person's body image. Often, people who have a low body image will try to alter their bodies in some way, such as by dieting or by undergoing cosmetic surgery. "We expected women would feel worse about their bodies after seeing ultra-thin models, compared to no models if they have internalized the thin ideal, thus replicating previous findings."

Energy (psychological)

Mental energy or psychic energy is a concept in some psychological theories or models of a postulated unconscious mental functioning on a level between biology and consciousness.

Mental model

A mental model is an explanation of someone's thought process about how something works in the real world. It is a representation of the surrounding world, the relationships between its various parts and a person's intuitive perception about his or her own acts and their consequences. Mental models can help shape behaviour and set an approach to solving problems (similar to a personal algorithm) and doing tasks.

A mental model is a kind of internal symbol or representation of external reality, hypothesized to play a major role in cognition, reasoning and decision-making. Kenneth Craik suggested in 1943 that the mind constructs "small-scale models" of reality that it uses to anticipate events.

Jay Wright Forrester defined general mental models as:

The image of the world around us, which we carry in our head, is just a model. Nobody in his head imagines all the world, government or country. He has only selected concepts, and relationships between them, and uses those to represent the real system (Forrester, 1971).

In psychology, the term mental models is sometimes used to refer to mental representations or mental simulation generally. At other times it is used to refer to § Mental models and reasoning and to the mental model theory of reasoning developed by Philip Johnson-Laird and Ruth M.J. Byrne.


Pharmacology is the branch of biology concerned with the study of drug or medication action, where a drug can be broadly defined as any man-made, natural, or endogenous (from within the body) molecule which exerts a biochemical or physiological effect on the cell, tissue, organ, or organism (sometimes the word pharmacon is used as a term to encompass these endogenous and exogenous bioactive species). More specifically, it is the study of the interactions that occur between a living organism and chemicals that affect normal or abnormal biochemical function. If substances have medicinal properties, they are considered pharmaceuticals.

The field encompasses drug composition and properties, synthesis and drug design, molecular and cellular mechanisms, organ/systems mechanisms, signal transduction/cellular communication, molecular diagnostics, interactions, toxicology, chemical biology, therapy, and medical applications and antipathogenic capabilities. The two main areas of pharmacology are pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics. Pharmacodynamics studies the effects of a drug on biological systems, and Pharmacokinetics studies the effects of biological systems on a drug. In broad terms, pharmacodynamics discusses the chemicals with biological receptors, and pharmacokinetics discusses the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME) of chemicals from the biological systems. Pharmacology is not synonymous with pharmacy and the two terms are frequently confused. Pharmacology, a biomedical science, deals with the research, discovery, and characterization of chemicals which show biological effects and the elucidation of cellular and organismal function in relation to these chemicals. In contrast, pharmacy, a health services profession, is concerned with application of the principles learned from pharmacology in its clinical settings; whether it be in a dispensing or clinical care role. In either field, the primary contrast between the two are their distinctions between direct-patient care, for pharmacy practice, and the science-oriented research field, driven by pharmacology.


One's self-concept (also called self-construction, self-identity, self-perspective or self-structure) is a collection of beliefs about oneself. Generally, self-concept embodies the answer to "Who am I?".

Self-concept is distinguishable from self-awareness, which refers to the extent to which self-knowledge is defined, consistent, and currently applicable to one's attitudes and dispositions. Self-concept also differs from self-esteem: self-concept is a cognitive or descriptive component of one's self (e.g. "I am a fast runner"), while self-esteem is evaluative and opinionated (e.g. "I feel good about being a fast runner").

Self-concept is made up of one's self-schemas, and interacts with self-esteem, self-knowledge, and the social self to form the self as whole. It includes the past, present, and future selves, where future selves (or possible selves) represent individuals' ideas of what they might become, what they would like to become, or what they are afraid of becoming. Possible selves may function as incentives for certain behavior.The perception people have about their past or future selves relates to their perception of their current selves. The temporal self-appraisal theory argues that people have a tendency to maintain a positive self-evaluation by distancing themselves from their negative self and paying more attention to their positive one. In addition, people have a tendency to perceive the past self less favorably (e.g. "I'm better than I used to be") and the future self more positively (e.g. "I will be better than I am now").

True self and false self

True self (also known as real self, authentic self, original self and vulnerable self) and false self (also known as fake self, idealized self, superficial self and pseudo self) are psychological concepts often used in connection with narcissism.

The concepts were introduced into psychoanalysis in 1960 by Donald Winnicott. Winnicott used true self to describe a sense of self based on spontaneous authentic experience, and a feeling of being alive, having a real self. The false self, by contrast, Winnicott saw as a defensive façade – one which in extreme cases could leave its holders lacking spontaneity and feeling dead and empty, behind a mere appearance of being real.To maintain their self-esteem, and protect their vulnerable true selves, narcissists need to control others' behavior – particularly that of their children, seen as extensions of themselves.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.