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Human Motives and The Concept of The Self

Ernest Hilgard

Human Motives and The Concept of The Self By Ernest Hilgard

The Article in Full

No problems are more fascinating than those of human motivation, and none are more in need of wise solution. To understand the struggles which go on within economic enterprise, to interpret the quarrels of international diplomacy, or to deal with the tensions in the daily interplay between individuals, we must know what it is that people want, how these wants arise and change, and how people will act in the effort to satisfy them. 

American psychologists typically believe that adult motivational patterns develop through the socialization of organic drives. Our preference for such an interpretation is understandable because our science is rooted in biology. Man is assuredly a mammal as well as a member of society, and we begin to understand him by studying what he has in common with other animals. When we accept as the biological basis for motivation, the drives present at birth or developing by maturation, it is natural to think of the learned social motives as grafted upon these or in some way derived from them. Despite the variations in the detailed lists of primary drives which different ones of us offer, and some alternative conceptions as to the ways in which socialization takes place, we find it easy to agree that adult motives are to be understood through an interaction between biology and culture. Without reviewing any further the genetic development of motives, I wish to turn to some of the problems arising as we attempt to understand how these motives affect conduct. In our textbooks there is usually some important material left over after we have finished the chapters on physiological drives and social motives. I refer to the problems raised by the so-called defense mechanisms or mechanisms of adjustment. 


The mechanisms of adjustment were the features of Freudian theory that we earliest domesticated within American academic psychology. They now have a respectable place in our textbooks, regardless of the theoretical biases of our textbook writers. The mechanisms did not burst all at once upon the psychological scene. Freud had begun to write about them in the '90's, and by the time of his Interpretation of Dreams (1900) he had named repression, projection, displacement, identification, and condensation. In his Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex (1905) he added fixation, regression, and reaction formation. It remained for Ernest Jones to give the name rationalization to that, best-known of the mechanisms. He assigned this name in an article in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 1908. Among the books which brought the mechanisms together and called them to the attention of psychologists none was more popular than Bernard Hart's Psychology of insanity, which appeared in 1912 and went through several editions and many reprintings. Hart treated especially the manifestations of identification, projection, and rationalization, and introduced that by now familiar friend, logic-tight compartments. It remained for Gates to collect the mechanisms into a list in a textbook intended for the general student. The evolution of his chapter on mechanisms is itself instructive by showing how styles change in psychology. In his Psychology for Students of Education (1923), Gates called the chapter "The dynamic role of instincts in habit formation." In the first, edition of his Elementary Psychology (1925) he changed the title to "The dynamic role of the dominant human urges in habit formation." Then in the next edition (1928) he used the contemporary sounding title: "Motivation and adjustment." The content of the chapter underwent only minor revisions with these changes in title. These widely used books did much to place the mechanisms on the tips of the tongues of psychology students and professors twenty years ago, for by that time the mechanisms were already part of the general equipment of psychology, and not reserved for abnormal psychology or the clinic.

Some of the tendencies found in Gates' early treatment have persisted in more recent discussions of the mechanisms. For one thing, we took over the mechanisms when as a profession we were hostile to other aspects of psychoanalytic teaching. As a consequence, we often gave only halting recognition to their psychoanalytic origins. Nearly all the mechanisms do in fact derive from Freud, Jung, Adler, and their followers. Among the mechanisms in Gates' 1928 list, psychoanalytic writers originated introversion, identification, rationalization, projection, defense mechanisms, and compensation. Yet Gates' only mention of psychoanalysis was in some disparaging remarks about the "alleged adjustment by repression to the unconscious," an explanation of adjustment which he rejected as neither true nor useful. In subsequent discussions of the mechanisms, textbook writers have seldom felt called upon to take responsibility for serious systematic treatment. In order to avoid a mere listing of mechanisms, many writers have attempted some sort of classificatory simplification, but there has been little agreement on which mechanisms belong together. Gates, for example, had included four mechanisms under rationalization: projection, sour grapes, sweet lemon, and logic-tight compartments. He gave defense and escape mechanisms separate places, although psychoanalytic practice has been to consider all the mechanisms as forms of defense. Shaffer (19) separated adjustments by defense from adjustments by withdrawing, but he took back much of the distinction by treating withdrawing as a defense. In his recent books concerned with the mechanisms, Symonds (23) (24) provides a rich collection of descriptive material, frankly psychoanalytic in orientation, but he succeeds little better than those who preceded him in giving a unified treatment of the mechanisms in relation to motivation. 

The lack of systematic treatment of the mechanisms has had consequences for their development as part of psychological science. When there is no effort to be systematic, problems are not sharply defined. When problems are not sharply defined, anecdotal evidence is used loosely, and sometimes irresponsibly. A consequence is that very little evidence of experimental sort is introduced into the chapters on the mechanisms. This does not mean that evidence does not exist. It means only that problems have to be more carefully formulated before the relevance of existing evidence is seen, and before gaps in knowledge are discovered which evidence can fill. 


It would take us too far afield to review the individual mechanisms at this time, and to consider evidence in relation to them. Instead, we may examine some of their most general characteristics, as they relate to motivational theory. These characteristics lend support to a thesis which I propose to defend: the thesis that all the mechanisms imply a self-reference, and that the mechanisms are not understandable unless we adopt a concept of the self. 

The thesis that the mechanisms imply a self-reference need come as no surprise. Psychoanalysts have thought of the mechanisms as protecting the ego, Anna Freud's book on the subject bears the title: The ego and the mechanisms of defense (6). Non psychoanalysts have occasionally endorsed a similar thesis. In their recent text, for example, Guthrie and Edwards have given a very straightforward account, of the defense mechanisms. Although their text remains within the broad framework of behaviorism, they do not hesitate to relate the mechanisms to the ego. In fact they define defense mechanisms as "the reaction patterns which reestablish the ego" (7, page 137). 

Let us examine two of the characteristics of the mechanisms to see how the thesis of self-reference is implied. We may choose to view the mechanisms as defenses against anxiety, or we may see them as self-deceptive. 

1. The mechanisms as defenses against anxiety. The natural history of anxiety in relation to learning has been much illuminated by the series of experiments with animal subjects performed by Mowrer, e.g. (13), Miller, e.g. (12), and their collaborators. 

A white rat is confined in a rectangular box of one or more compartments. The animal can escape electric shock either by some action within the shock compartment (such as depressing a lever to shut off the current), or by escaping from the dangerous place (as by leaping a barrier). Both Mowrer and Miller find that in situations like this a new drive is acquired, sometimes called anxiety, sometimes called fear. This new drive can motivate learning very much like any other drive. They accept the general position that drive-reduction is reinforcing. Anything which reduces the fear or anxiety will reinforce the behavior leading to this reduction. Thus any sort of activity or ritual which would reduce fear or anxiety might be strengthened. Such activities or rituals might have the characteristics of defense mechanisms. 

The natural history of anxiety, according to this view, is somewhat as follows. First, the organism has experiences of pain and punishment experiences to be avoided. These are followed in turn by threats of pain and punishment, which lead to fear of the situations in which such threats arise. Other situations are assimilated to these fear-provoking ones, so the added circumstances may lead to apprehension. Fears with these somewhat vaguer object-relations become known as anxiety states. Sometimes as the apprehensive state becomes more and more detached from particular frightening situations, clinicians refer to it as a state of free-floating anxiety. All of these acquired states of fear, apprehension or anxiety are tension-states. Any one of them may serve as an acquired drive and motivate learning. Activities which lessen fear and anxiety are reinforced because tension is reduced. Thus behavior mechanisms become reinforced and learned as ways of reducing anxiety. 

The Mowrer-Miller theory of the origin of fear, and of its role as an acquired drive, is acceptable as far as it goes. But it needs to be carried one step further if it is to deal with the kinds of anxiety which are found in the clinic. This step is needed because in man anxiety becomes intermingled with guilt-feelings. The Mowrer and Miller experiments with animals carry the natural history of anxiety through the stages of fear and apprehension, but not to the stage of guilt-feelings. 

In many cases which come to the clinic, the apprehension includes the fear lest some past offense will be brought to light, or lest some act will be committed which deserves pain and punishment. It is such apprehensions which go by the name of guilt-feelings, because they imply the responsibility of the individual for his past or future misbehavior. To feel guilty is to conceive of the self as an agent capable of good or bad choices. It thus appears that at the point, that, anxiety becomes infused with guilt-feelings, self-reference enters. If we are to understand a person's defenses against guilt-feelings, we must know something about his image of himself. This is the kind of argument which supports the thesis that if we are to understand the mechanisms we shall have to come to grips with a concept of the self. 

2. The mechanisms as self-deceptive. Another way of looking at the mechanisms is to see them as bolstering self-esteem through self-deception. There is a deceptive element in each of the mechanisms. Rationalization is using false or distorted reasons to oneself as well as to the world outside; using reasons known to be false in order to deceive someone else is not rationalization but lying. If is entirely appropriate to consider self-deception as one of the defining characteristics of a mechanism. As another example of what I mean, let us consider when aggression should be thought of as a mechanism. Aggressive behavior which is a form of fighting directly for what you want or as a protest against injustice is not a mechanism at all, even if it is violent and destructive. It is then simply a direct attempt at problem-solving. But displaced aggression has the characteristics of a mechanism, because false accusations are made, and the object, of aggression may be related only remotely to the source of the need to express aggression. Displaced aggression thus contains the elements of self-deception, and fits the pattern of the mechanisms. 

There are two chief ways in which we deceive ourselves. One is by denial of impulses, or of traits, or of memories. The second is through disguise, whereby the impulses, traits, or memories are distorted, displaced, or converted, so that we do not recognize them for what they are. Let us see what evidence there is for denial and for disguise. 

The clearest evidence for denial comes through amnesia, in which memories are temporarily lost. If such memories can later be recovered without relearning, support is given to an interpretation of forgetting as a consequence of repression. Often in amnesia the memories lost are the personal ones, while impersonal memories remain intact. 

The man studied by Heck (2), for example, had no trouble in carrying on a conversation, in buying railroad tickets, or in many other ways conducting himself like a mature adult with the habits appropriate to one raised in our culture. It is a mistake to say that he lost his memory, for without memory he would have been unable to talk and make change and do the other things which are based upon past experience with arbitrary symbols and meanings. But he did lose some, of his memories. He could not recall his name, and he could not recall the incidents of his personal biography. The highly selective nature of the memory loss is an important feature of many amnesias. Under treatment, the man referred to recovered most of his memories, except for one important gap. This gap was for a period in his career in which he conducted himself in a manner of which he was thoroughly ashamed. 

Disguise, as the second form of self-deception, shows in many ways. The most pertinent evidence from the laboratory comes in the studies of projection defined as the attribution of traits. Undesirable traits of his own of which the person prefers to remain unaware are assigned in exaggerated measure to other people (Sears, 18). In some cases, the deception goes so far as to become what Frenkel-Brunswik calls "conversion to the opposite." In one of her studies (4) it was found that a person who said, "Above all else I am kind," was one likely to be rated unkind by his acquaintances. In the studies of anti-Semitism which she later carried on collaboratively with the California group she presents evidence that anti-Semitism is sometimes a disguise for deep-seated attitudes of hostility and insecurity having to do with home and childhood, and nothing to do directly with experience with Jews (5). 

If self-deception either by denial or by disguise is accepted as characteristic of a mechanism, the problem still remains as to the source of or reasons for the self-deception. The obvious interpretation is that the need for self-deception arises because of a more fundamental need to maintain or to restore self-esteem. Anything belittling to the self is to be avoided. That is why the memories lost in amnesia are usually those with a self-reference, concealing episodes which are anxiety or guilt-producing. What is feared is loss of status, loss of security of the self. That is why aspects of the self which are disapproved are disguised. 

In this discussion of the mechanisms I have tried to point out that they may be integrated with other aspects of motivation and learning provided their self-reference is accepted. Then it can be understood how they provide defenses against anxiety, and why they are self-deceptive through denial and disguise. 


The mechanisms are comprehensible only if we accept a conception of the self. This poses us the problem of the nature of the self-concept that we may find acceptable. Two main approaches lie before us. One approach is to look for the self in awareness, to see if we can find by direct observation the self that is anxious, that feels guilty, that tries various dodges in order to maintain self respect. The second approach is to infer a self from the data open to an external observer, to construct a self which will give a coherent account of motivated behavior. Let us examine these two possibilities in turn.

We enter upon the task of discovering the self in awareness with the warnings from past failures. Any naïve person who started out to develop a psychology of the self would expect to find the task relatively easy because self-awareness seems to be commonplace. Everybody knows that people are proud or vain or bashful because they are self-conscious. But the psychologist knows that this self-evident character of self-awareness is in fact most illusive. You presently find yourself as between the two mirrors of a barber-shop, with each image viewing each other one, so that as the self takes a look at itself taking a look at itself, it soon gets all confused as to the self that is doing the looking and the self which is being looked at. As we review the efforts of Miss Calkins (3) and her students to demonstrate that there was a self discoverable in every act of introspection, and find how little convinced Titchener and his students were, we are well advised not to enter that quarrel with the same old weapons. Introspection was taken seriously in those days and psychologists worked hard at it. There is little likelihood that we can succeed where they failed. 

Their difficulty was not due to the insistence upon trained observers. Self-observation of a much freer type by naïve subjects is little more satisfactory. Horowitz' study of the localization of the self as reported by children was not very encouraging in this respect (9). Children located their selves in the head or the stomach or the lower jaw or elsewhere, each individual child being reasonably consistent, but the whole picture not being very persuasive as to the fruitfulness of an approach through naïve self-observation. 

But the reason for rejecting a purely introspective approach to the search for the self is not limited to the historical one that earlier attempts have proved fruitless. It is based also on the recognition that defense mechanisms and self-deception so contaminate self-observation that unaided introspection is bound to yield a distorted view of the self.

Having said all this by way of warning, we may still allow some place for self-awareness in arriving at our concept of the self. Two aspects of the self as seen by the experiencing person appear to be necessary features in understanding self-organization. 

The first of these is the continuity of memories as binding the self, as maintaining self-identity. To the external observer, the continuity of the bodily organism is enough to maintain identity , but the person himself needs to have continuous memories, dated in his personal past, if he is to have a sense of personal identity. One of the most terrifying experiences in the clinical literature is the state known as depersonalization, in which experiences are no longer recognized as belonging to the self. Break the continuity of memories and we have dissociation, split personalities, fugue states, and other distortions of the self. 

The second feature of self-awareness which cannot be ignored in forming our concept of the self is that, of self-evaluation and self-criticism. I earlier pointed out that we need to understand the feelings of guilt which go beyond mere anxiety. Guilt-feelings imply that the self is an active agent, responsible for what it does, and therefore subject to self-reproof. The other side of self-evaluation is that the self must he supported and must be protected from criticism. One component of the self is provided by those vigilant attitudes which are assumed in order to reduce anxiety and guilt. It is this vigilant self criticism in its harshest form which is implied in Freud's concept of the superego. Evaluative attitudes toward the self, including both positive and negative self-feelings, come prominently to the fore in the interviews recorded by Rogers and his students (16} (17). 

Another way of putting this is to state that the self of awareness is an object of value. McDougall referred to the sentiment of self-regard, as in some sense the master sentiment. Murphy, Murphy, and Newcomb put if tersely: "The self is something we like and from which we expect much." (15, page 210.) Perhaps I might amend the statement to read: "To some people the self is something they dislike and from which they expect little." In any case it is an object about which attitudes of appreciation and depreciation are organized. Snygg and Combs state as the basic human need the preservation and enhancement of the phenomenal self (21, page 58). It would be easy to multiply testimony that one of the fundamental characteristics of self-awareness is an evaluative or judging attitude toward the self, in which the self is regarded as an object of importance, and preferably of worth (1) (14) (20).

Despite the difficulties in introspective approaches to the self, we find that our self-concept needs to include some information based on private experience. The continuity of memories maintains personal identity, and the awareness of the self as an object of value organizes many of our attitudes. More is needed, however, to enrich the concept of the self and to make it square with all that we know about, human motivation.


This points up the need for a more inclusive self-concept, one which will make use of all the data. Such a self-concept I shall call the inferred self. Like any other scientific construct, it will prove to be valid to the extent that it is systematically related to data, and it will be useful to the extent that it simplifies the understanding of events. 

I wish to suggest three hypotheses needed in arriving at an inferred self. Each of these, although plausible, is not self-evident, and therefore requires demonstration. In order to be scientifically useful, it is important that the inferred self should go beyond the obvious. The inferred self will prove acceptable only if these hypotheses, or closely related ones are supported. 

The first hypothesis is that of the continuity of motivational patterns. This means that the organization of motives and attitudes that are central to the self is one which persists and remains recognizable as the person grows older. Reactions to present situations will be coherent with reactions to past situations. For those who prefer the habit concept, the inferred self may be thought of as a pattern of persisting habits and attitudes. The organization or structure which is implied is a learned one, and like any habit structure it carries the marks of the past in the present. When new goals are substituted for old ones, there is continuity with the past in the ways in which the goals are selected and in the ways in which, gratification is obtained. This is all plausible, but it is by no means self-evident, and it is greatly in need of empirical study. It is a matter for study and demonstration whether or not a continuity can be traced between nursing arrangements, thumb-sucking, nail-biting, cigarette-smoking, and overt sexual behavior. The first hypothesis implies that there is such a continuity, whatever motivational strands are being followed, so that one form of gratification shades imperceptibly into the next. If we but knew enough, we could trace the continuity throughout the life span.

The second hypothesis supporting the inferred self is that of the genotypical patterning of motives. This hypothesis suggests that motives unlike in their overt or phenotypical expression may represent an underlying similarity. It will do no good to try to appraise personality by a study confined to its superficial expression. What we know about the mechanisms of denial and disguise tells us that the genotypical pattern will have to be inferred. Unless we move at the level of inference and interpretation, much behavior will be baffling or paradoxical.

The inferred self goes beyond the self of awareness by including for purposes of inference much that is excluded from self-awareness. Awareness includes the not-self as well as the self. In dreams and hallucinations we have products of the self, present in awareness, but products for which the self takes neither credit nor responsibility. It is hard to see the self as giving the stage-directions for the dream, or as selecting the epithets hurled by the hallucinated voices. Yet in making a reconstruction of genotypical motives, these products of the self enter as evidence. Some items, then, remain in awareness, but are not part of self-awareness. Other items are excluded from awareness by inattention or amnesia. Facts such as these necessitate indirection in the inference to motivational organization. A description of overt conduct is not enough to permit an accurate appraisal of motivational patterning. 

These assertions may be made with some confidence, but again confidence of assertion does not constitute proof. We need to show by rigorous proof that predictions based on the concept of genotypical patterning of motives will account for behavior either more economically or more accurately than predictions based on phenotypical manifestations of motivated action. 

3. The third hypothesis is that the important human motives are inter-personal both in origin and in expression. Despite the fertility of Freud's mind and the penetration of his observations, this is one hypothesis about the self which he never fully grasped. By good fortune he laid his emphasis upon the one organic need -sex which is inevitably interpersonal in its fullest expression. Even so, he remained within the instinct tradition. Once we reject the self as the unfolding of an inevitable pattern, but see it instead as an individual acquisition, we are impressed by the part which other people play in the shaping of an individual self. Because the parents and others who transmit the culture are themselves a part of the culture, there are some uniformities in socialization, producing pressure in the direction of a modal personality (10). In addition, there are diverse roles which are ready-made for the individual, to which he conforms with greater or less success. There are the roles of man and of woman, of eldest and youngest child, of mother and father and in-law, of employer and employee, of craftsman and white-collar worker. Finally there are the individualizing influences of heredity, of birth accidents, of childhood experiences. There are many details to be filled in, but there is little doubt about the general course of socialization, leading in the end to internalizing much of the culture in the form of personal ideals and standards of conduct. 

The self is thus a product of interpersonal influences, but the question remains whether the end product is also interpersonal in its expression. Does the self have meaning only as it is reflected in behavior involving other people, either actually or symbolically? Is it true that you can describe a self only according to the ways in which other selves react to it? I am inclined to believe that the self, as a social product, has full meaning only when expressed in social interaction. But I do not believe that this is obvious, because I can conceive that it might not be true, or might be true in a limited sense only. 

These uncertainties about the truth of the hypotheses regarding the inferred self need not be regarded as signs of weakness in the concept. On the contrary, the concept has greater potential richness of meaning precisely because it goes beyond the self-evident and requires empirical study and justification. If it turns out that in some meaningful sense motivational patterns are continuous, that we can unravel their genotypical organization, and that we can know in what precise way they are interpersonal, then we will have a concept of an inferred self that will be genuinely useful. 

What does the inferred self imply as to the unity of personality? It does not necessarily imply unity. Conflict as well as harmony may be perpetuated through genotypical organization. The healthy self, however, will achieve an integrative organization. Note that I say integrative and not integrated. It is the integrative personality which can handle the complexity of relationships with other persons in a culture like ours, a culture which makes plural demands. An integrated personality soon leads to its own isolation or destruction if it is not also integrative. Lest this seem to be an idle play on words, let me point out that the paranoid psychotic with highly systematized delusions is among the best integrated of personalities. He is integrated but not integrative. The genotypical patterns of motivation which comprise the inferred self may or may not be integrative. 


I have argued that we need a self-concept if we are to understand the richness of human motivation, and I have proposed that we adopt an inferred self as the unifying concept. Now what shall we do about it? 

Perhaps this all sounds very much like clinical psychology, so that the answer might come: "Leave it to the clinicians." I believe this to be the wrong answer, not because I have any lack of confidence in clinicians, but because I believe it represents a faulty conception of the appropriate division of labor within psychology. The problems of human motivation and personality belong to all psychologists. The problems of the self-concept are general problems of psychological science. 

Instead of assigning these problems to any one group of psychologists, I propose that we proceed to establish laboratories for the study of psychodynamics fully commensurate with laboratories for the study of perception or learning or other problems of general psychology (11). 

A laboratory for the study of psychodynamics differs from the clinic in its intent, though there will be overlap in staff, in procedures, and in problems. I am assuming that people are referred to a clinic or come there voluntarily in order to be helped with their personal problems. By contrast, subjects are invited to come to a laboratory because they fit into an experimental design. The laboratory permits delimitation of problems and control of variables in a manner usually less possible in a situation geared to service. 

In order to make the picture of the psychodynamics laboratory concrete, we may sketch a few specimen problems likely to be worked upon. Many of these problems will have hid their origin in clinical experience, and many fruitful hypotheses will have come from the clinic. But the task of achieving precision in the testing of scientific generalizations belongs to the laboratory. 

Of first moment are the problems involved in the natural history of the self. This will mean concentrated study of young children, under arrangements which permit the testing of hypotheses. For many years we have given assent to the importance of language as an instrument of socialization, but we have a paucity of data. Piaget asked many of the right questions, but his conjectures have to be refined and put to the test in a manner more convincing to American psychologists. I should assign the study of the child's language as a task of high priority in the psychodynamics laboratory. This is but one aspect of discovering in what ways the self is a social product.

Other problems include the details of influence by important people in the child's environment. Some studies now under way at Stanford (8) suggest that patterns of sibling rivalry among young children are often traceable to unresolved rivalries going back to the parents' childhoods. A parent may act as a director of the drama, assigning the roles to the children, and calling the turns on a new performance that largely reenacts one of a previous generation. While there is satisfactory evidence from case histories that this sort of parental influence goes on, just how it comes about, and just how the parent is protected from becoming aware of what is being done, need to be studied under laboratory-type controls. 

Another developmental problem worthy of careful exploration has to do with the magical ideas of childhood, sometimes referred to as the feeling of omnipotence. While the stubborn realities of the environment soon trim down the sense of power to more finite proportions, magical conceptions continue even into adult life, influencing the interpretations of causal sequences. I do not refer simply to superficial manifestations, as in the prevalence of superstition. When the investigator begins to look, he finds that, there are many ways in which individuals believe themselves to have magical powers, to be among the specially gifted, to be so precious as to be specially vulnerable, to be able to shape even events through willing them to be. In a scientific age like ours, these magical ideas are taboo, and consequently may influence behavior while being largely out of awareness. If we understand this desire to gain satisfaction through the expression of magical power, we would better understand some of the most puzzling aspects not only of an individual's behavior, but of the dynamics of economic and political life.

I have chosen these few illustrations (language, sibling rivalry, and the magic of power) to illustrate the sorts of problems which can be studied in arriving at a natural history of the self. 

Let me turn now to a set of problems in the answer to which experiments with animal subjects are particularly promising. These are defining experiments on the concepts of anxiety, shame, and guilt. I have already referred to the excellent start made by experiments on fear and anxiety in rats. If may take a more sociable animal, such as the dog, to exhibit the behavior we call shame. There is no doubt, that the dog can act as if ashamed. I do not know whether or not a dog can act as if guilty. Shame may be thought of as a response to being caught by someone else in socially disapproved behavior; guilt may be thought of as a response to catching yourself in behavior discordant with your own conscience. Can both shame and guilt go on outside of awareness, or is guilt alone subject to unconscious expression? Is the concept of guilt applicable only to man? We need better definitions, but we also need to know what is the case. I should like to see the psychodynamics laboratory work on the problem of clarifying what is meant by anxiety, shame, and guilt, and instructing us about the principles according to which these processes occur. 

The psychodynamics laboratory is the place in which to make a direct study of the self-organization which permits conflicts within the self as dramatized in the Freudian notions of id, ego, and superego. This particular partitioning of the self is probably too rigid to be acceptable, but they are genuine problems which the partitioning is designed to explain, and these problems are still in need of explanation. Anna Freud suggests that under hypnosis the hypnotist sets aside the subject's ego. Others have suggested that the superego is soluble in alcohol. If appropriate hypotheses are clearly stated, it ought to be possible to design experiments to test them by biasing the outcome of the wars within the self. That is, through appropriate techniques, perhaps using hypnosis or alcohol, one or the other of the lighters in the battle could be strengthened or weakened. Thus it should be possible to determine with greater precision the nature of the participants in self-conflict. 

Another problem is that of rapport which arises because we need to know the circumstances under which a person can freely report private experience with a minimum of distortion. Consider the following three situations. First is the administration of projective tests, say the Rorschach or the TAT. It is assumed, rightly or wrongly, that rapport with the test-administrator can be established fairly promptly. It is also assumed, rightly or wrongly, that once rapport is established, responses are primarily to the stimulus cards rather than to the test administrator. All this needs study, but we may accept this situation as involving a relatively low order of rapport. Next in our scale is the ordinary interviewing situation, in which the subject, alone with the psychologist, reports private experiences. Here it is plausible to assume that rapport is more important than in the test situation, so that what the person reveals becomes more closely related to the inter-personal situation the interviewer is able to create. The third situation, with rapport at a maximum, is that of hypnosis, in which rapport is exaggerated beyond that ordinarily found in the interviewing situation. These graded situations provide an excellent series in which to study what rapport does to the possibility of reporting personal experiences with varying degrees of distortion. 

Another problem is that of insight as a factor in personality reorganization. Here we have a problem directly pertinent to clinical practices, and to psychotherapy, but there is pertinence to general psychology also. How is the insight of which the psychotherapist speaks related to that of which the animal psychologist speaks? There is a similarity in that both have to do with sensible problem-solving, based on the ways in which situations are perceived. In studying the achievement of insight we have an opportunity to compare the self present in awareness with the inferred self. What we mean by insight in this context is essentially that the self of which the person is aware comes to correspond to the inferred self, in other words, that the person comes to see himself as an informed other person sees him. This is what is meant by an objective attitude toward the self. The self may be granted the privilege of privacy, but even the view of the self held in private is such as could be communicated to a trusted outsider. This explains the enigmatic statement of the late Harry Stack Sullivan that one achieves mental health to the extent that one becomes aware of oneself and potentially to another, then these relations arc no longer confused by the distortions of neurotic mechanisms. 

It is sometimes said that the mechanisms are blind and inflexible, little subject to the ordinary principles of learning (25).But they can be unlearned; this is, in fact, one of the chief tasks of psychotherapy. There are perhaps two main ways in which, through insight, the mechanisms can be defeated. 

The first of these methods is to become aware of the mechanisms, so that the person can catch himself using them. He may learn to interpret his own headaches and his own outbursts of temper. Because he knows what he is doing, he is able to control his conduct. Insight here is into symptoms and the chain of events of which these symptoms are a part. Following insight the chain of events may be broken, so that the sequences do not flow lo their usual conclusions, Guthrie has made use of a notion very like this (despite his discomfort with insight as a concept) in urging that the way to gain control over a habit sequence is to identify the cues. By alienating these cues, the objectional habit sequence is interrupted. 

The second method overlooks the detailed action of the mechanisms entirely, while seeking insight into whatever has made the mechanisms necessary. There is a reevaluation of the self and its motives, a willingness to accept features of the self which were previously unacceptable. If more security can be achieved by abandoning the mechanisms than was achieved by them, they do not have to be fought. The mechanisms simply dissolve because they are no longer needed. 

It is important, to know whether or not this is a two-stage process, or an interaction between two methods of solving the same problem. This is not something to be debated, but something to be studied and understood. 

We are ready today, as we might not have been a few years ago, to establish psychodynamic laboratories to attack and answer many of the questions which I have raised. Such laboratories will provide opportunities for co-operation between experimental and clinical psychologists on problems of mutual concern. The staff to be invited to work in these laboratories will include psychologists with a variety of backgrounds, united in their acknowledgment that the search for the self is a, significant scientific endeavor. 


1. ALLPORT, G. W. The ego in contemporary psychology. Psychol. Rev., 1943, 50, 451 478. 

2. BECK, L.F. Hypnotic identification of an amnesia victim. Brit.J. med. Psychol, 1936, 16, 36-42. 

3. CALKINS, M. W. The self in scientific psychology. Amer. J. Psychol., 1915, 26, 495-524. 

4. FRENKEL, BRUNSWIK, ELSE. Mechanisms of self deception. J. soc. Psychol., 1939, 10, 409 420. 

5. FRENKEL.-BRUNSWIK, ELSE. A study of prejudice in children. Human Relations, 1948,1, 295- 306. 

6. FREUD, ANNA. The ego and the mechanisms of defence, London: Hogarth Press, 1937. 

7. GUTHRIE, E. R. and EDWARDS, A. L. Psychology. New York: Harper, 1949. 

8. HILGARD, JOSEPHINE R. Sibling rivalry and pseudo heredity. Psychiatry (To appear). 

9. HOROWITZ, E. L. Spatial localization of the self. J. soc. Psychol., 1935,6,379-387. 

10. KARDINER , A. The psychological frontiers of society. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1945. 

11. MACKINNON, D. W. and HENLE, MARY Experimental studies in psychodynamics; a laboratory manual, Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1948. 

12. MILLER, N.E. Studies of fear as an acquirable drive: Fear as motivation and fear reduction as reinforcement in the learning of new   responses. J exp Psychol, 1948, 38, 89-101. 

13. MOWRER, O. 11. Anxiety-reduction and learning. J. exp. Psychol.,1940,27,497-516. 

14. MURPHY, G. Personality: A biosocial approach to origin and structure. New York: Harper, 1947. 

15. MURPHY,G., MURPHY, LOIS B., and NEWCOMB, T. Experimental social psychology. New York : Harper, 1937. 

16. ROGERS, C. R., Some observations on the organisation of personality. Amer. Psychologist, 1947, 2, 358-368. 

17. ROGERS, C. R., and others. A coordinated research in psychotherapy. J. consulting Psychol. , 1949,13, 149 - 220. 

18. SEARS, R. R. Experimental studies of projection: I. Attribution of traits. J. soc. Psychol., 1936, 7, 151-163. 

19. SHAFFER, L. F. The psychology of adjustment. Boston: Hough- ton, Mifflin, 1936. 

20. SHERIF, M., and CANTRIL, H. The psychology of ego involvements. New York: Wiley, 1947. 

21. SNYGG, D. and COMBS, A. W. Individual behavior. New York: Harper, 1949. 

22. SULLIVAN, H. S. Conceptions of modern psychiatry. Psychiatry, 1940, 3, 1-117. 

23. SYMONDS, P. M. The dynamics of human adjustment. New York: Appleton-Ccntury, 1946. 

24. SYMONDS, P. M. Dynamic psychology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1949. 

25. TOLMAN, K. C. Drives toward war. New York: Appleton-Century, 1942. 

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