Freud, Jung, and the Role of Animal Observation

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Freud and Jung utilized similar terms in their work, including ego, libido, psychic energy, and sexuality as a way of conveying the meaning behind their theories of personality. Later on, they found their ideas of the integral parts of an individual cultivating a personality being irreconcilably different. For Freud, human sexuality was the fundamental base of establishing personality whereas an analysis of Jung shows he introduced the archetype of the Self as the culmination of conscious and unconscious mind that then represented the totality of the psyche. Between 1907 and 1913, Freud and Jung attempted to discover a common ground between their ideas.

Freud considered the personality to be deeply entrenched in the unconscious mind and lacking in a clear definition. Instead, the personality consisted of three symbiotic components: the iconic id, representing the unconscious mind; Super-Ego, the mind’s home for morals, beliefs, and otherwise ethical behavior; and the Ego, the mediator between the two that would create a realistic solution to satisfy the desires driven by the id and the morality that was instilled by the Super-Ego. Essentially, the Ego was the ending actor of the personality that caused action.

Jung, while agreeing that the Ego was an indispensable part of the personality, did not believe that it was the center of the personality. Similarly to Freud, he found three components to personality: the collective unconscious, a universal, collective, nearly psychic system of organizing experiences inherent in all creatures with a nervous system; the personal unconscious, similar to the collective unconscious but being a more private system unique to the individual, and the Ego. The fundamental difference between the two was that the Ego for Jung was a conscious part of personality that expressed thoughts, feelings and memories—with Freud feeling the opposite.

Freedom versus determinism is the philosophical question of whether or not human beings hold any sort of governance over their own existence and how influenced by internal or external sources they may be. This question supposes the gravity of influence that social surroundings may have. Alder’s concept of society wielding a relatively weighty influence on individuals would suggest that their actions might not always be their own volition but rather of what their society or culture considers being normal and something that is subject to change across history and location. Jung similarly understood that society was strongly influential on peoples’ behavior. 

Through the Jungian archetype of the shadow, which generally refers to an unconscious part of the personality that the ego does not acknowledge within itself, there is an expression of thoughts and feelings that the ego does not necessarily want to recognize. Despite this, Jung felt that understanding and accepting these unconscious urges was important if not imperative.  Essentially it accounts for both hereditary and societal influences which are both still near-requirements for studying and understanding human personality.

Proactive versus reactive is the philosophical question that assesses whether or not people think before they act or if it is more of an instinctual action, or one influenced by nature and culture. Freud, for example, suggested that the Ego combines both needs and belief to create an action that seems appropriate to perform. Although emotion may appear to be the final judge of an action, the ego may be executing specific behaviors that an individual finds morally preferable which then makes them proactive.

Optimism and pessimism are potential outlooks people may have on life. The question of whichever an individual aligns more closely with could affect cognitive processes and certainly personality. As an illustration, some people may benefit from pessimism due to them being overly prepared for the worst.

The ability to empirically study personality, especially in the realm of animals, has been limited until recently. Although an animal may certainly have a personality, they are inhibited by their lack of options for communication. According to the article, observation can be used as a means of understanding how the behavior and traits of animals may be essential to discovering the element behind their various thought processes and whether or not they do in fact have a discernible personality.

When considering human personality, it is important to consider the roles that both natural instincts and the environment play in its construction. Although animals can be observed, it is more challenging to assess the many genetic factors that are present in their behavior and how many environmental factors shape that behavior. In other words, when we try to determine whether animals have a personality compared to a temperament that is strictly genetically and biologically based, it is difficult. It is important to note that there is a marked difference between temperament and personality with the latter being more complex and intricate.

Roland Anderson and Jennifer Mathers discussed their study of four red octopi and assigned traits that the red octopi demonstrated such as shy, aggressive, or passive. The importance of animals being used in psychological study, particularly for the subject of personality is apparent in establishing that whatever animals may have, whether it is personality or temperament, is still influenced by necessary adaptations made based on their environment. Animals provide a glimpse into the ‘basics’ and breadth of personality traits and determining whether or not they are as varied as humans and the effect that the world around them has on their development and cultivation.