GCSE Psychology Wikia


      • Background of Freud and the society he lived in at the time bhvdkhbvIKNO [LMWVCFLE
  • Unconscious, preconscious, conscious - Description and the power of the unconscious
  • The structure of our mind - id, ego, superego
  • Psychosexual stages of development - including Oedipus complex
  • Features of Dreams - manifest, latent, symbols and their meanings - specific to Freud
  • Dreamwork - condensation, displacement, secondary elaboration
  • The process of dream analysis
  • Psychoanalysis - What is it?
  • Psychoanalysis - What are the 3 methods?
  • Evaluation of Freud’s dream theory - Described strengths and weaknesses using PEE


Dreamwork was Freud's theory of dreaming.

He believed that dreams have a manifest content, which is the story of the dream that the dreamer tells. In psychoanalysis, symbols in the manifest content can be used to discover the latent content of the dream. Dreams have a latent content, which is the underlying meaning of the dream - the hidden content of the dream. The latent content is what is hiding behind the manifest content. The latent content is what psychoanalysis tries to unpick, it reveals important things in the unconscious brain.

Condensation: many ideas appearing as one idea in a dream. These separate elements are important in uncovering repressed material so that one idea needs to be unpicked.

Displacement: something unimportant that seems important, in order to shift attention from what is really important.

Secondary elaboration: using muddled ideas from dream work to build a whole story. The dreamer will add bits to the dream when telling someone what it is about to try to make the dream make sense. This gets in the way of understanding the latent content of the dream.

Evaluation of dreamwork

Strengths of dream analysis:

1. It can access hard to reach information that cannot be easily reached as it is buried in the unconscious and is not known to the dreamer, unaccessible.

2. Accepted by the client, the patient usually agrees with the results, the results are helpful to patients. It is valid.

3. The dreams are offered by the client themselves.

Why is dreamwork so hard to find? (Weaknesses)

  • It is because the processes are unconscious, so we can’t measure or test them.
  • The interpretations are highly subjective.
  • People cannot always recall their dreams.
  • People could lie about their dreams so interpretations may be incorrect.
  • Only what the dreamer says can be used.
  • Ethical problems may occur because the dreamer may not want to reveal unconscious thoughts.

Structure of our mind


According to Freud our mind is made up of three levels - the conscious level, the preconscious level and the unconscious level.

The Id is buried in the unconscious mind untrue

. It seeks pleasure from what we do.

we do is to fulfill our desires (it could be needs, wants, etc.) and for pleasure. (We get pleasure when a need or want is fulfilled)

The Ego seeks reality. It is in our conscious mind. However not all of the Ego’s operations are conscious, some of the Ego’s operations are in the unconscious mind. They are thoughts about ourselves.  It is an identity we create for ourselves, that could be false at times. It is basically what you think you are. The Ego is related to the Id - it seeks to pleasure the Id’s drives. For example, in the Id a person wants to be the best. So the Ego seeks to become the best, or believes they are the best.

The Super Ego controls the Id’s impulses. There are two systems in the super ego: The conscience and the ideal self. The conscience can punish the ego by causing the feeling of guilt. For example, if the ego gives in to the id’s demands, the superego may make the person feel bad through guilt. Guilt happens when your behavior falls short of your ideal self. The super ego can also reward us through the ideal self when we behave ‘properly’ (what is proper is decided by the conscious mind, which can be affect by things like society) by making us feel proud. If a person’s ideal self is too high a standard, then whatever the person does represents failure. For example, if a person gets an A on a test, but expects an A*, that represents failure to them because of their high expectations (based on their ‘ideal self’ in the id) The ideal self and conscience are largely determined in childhood and parental values and how you were brought up.

Unconscious mind - this controls 75% of your behaviour. This is what your mind is mainly made up of. The content in the unconscious mind is not accessible and is hidden completely. The owner of the brain doesn't know what is in the unconscious mind, however this is what controls a lot of the person’s behaviour. Some of what is in the unconscious is repressed to help someone to forget or not deal with problems.

Repression in the unconscious - means something being pushed into the unconscious by the conscious mind, though this is not deliberately done, which means someone would not know what ‘dark secrets’ they were repressing.

Conscious mind and pre conscious - this is what the person is aware of and can remember, discuss and deal with. This is a very tiny portion of the brain. The pre-conscious mind are things like memories, that we can recall and extract.

For more information about this, click here.

Little Hans Case Study


Freud carried out case studies into his patients. Case studies were studies that focused on one specific person. Freud studies Little Hans in 1909 who had weird dreams. Little Hans's parents logged his development and wrote about them to Freud. They were also supporters of his theories. When Little Hans was 3 he sent messages to 'The Doctor' through his parent's letters but only met Freud once or twice.

Little Hans had a phobia of horses. He was afraid to go out of the house. Freud analysed what Little Hans said, including his dreams to find out what it was in Hans' unconscious that was causing the phobia. This was so that his unconscious wishes and desired could be revealed to Little Hans and so cure the phobia.

Little Hans' dream: He saw 2 giraffes, a big one and a crumpled one. The big giraffe shouted out because Little Hans took the crumpled one away from it (in his dream). The big giraffe stopped calling out and Little Hans says that in the dream he sat down on the crumpled giraffe.

Freud's analysis of the dream: Freud thought that the big giraffe that was shouting was Little Hans’ father and the crumpled giraffe was his mother. When the big giraffe shouted at Little Hans for taking the crumpled giraffe away, it was interpreted as showing that Little Hans wanted to take his mother away from his father. However, Little Hans feels guilty and is afraid of his father. This again was taken as evidence for the claim that a young boy has sexual feelings for his mother and also fears his father and feels guilty. The Oedipus complex.


  • Little Hans rarely saw Freud
  • The case study was subjective, relied on interpretation
  • Little Hans was an unusual child, not generalizable
  • Little Hans’ father knew about Freud’s theory


  • In depth information in a lot of detail
  • Little Hans’ father observed him a lot
  • Freud asked many detailed questions by letter

Stages of Child Development

Oral stage.jpg

To better understand Freud's theory of Little Hans here are the stages of child development as told by Sigmund Freud, however only the Oedipus complex is crucial to the syllabus.

The Oral Stage - From Birth to 1 year - During the oral stage, the infant primarily communicates and interacts by using their mouth. The mouth is vital for eating, and sucking. The infant gets pleasure from eating and tasting, so their mouth is very important. Because the infant is entirely dependent on their caretakers, a sense of trust is built. If fixation occurs at this stage, then the person may have problems with aggression or dependency, and may smoke.

Anal stage.jpg

The Anal Stage - From 1 to 3 years - This is when the infant has to be toilet trained, and a new source of interaction is created - through their anals. Developing control of their bladder gives them a sense of development. For success in this stage, parents should praise/reward their children, it makes them feel capable and productive , which they will need to feel confident.

If a child is punished, shamed or ridiculed for their actions then fixation is likely to occur. If fixation occurs at this stage then anal-expulsive or anal-retentive personalities may happen. If someone has an anal-expulsive personality, then they could be messy and wasteful. If someone has an anal-retentive personality, then they could be obsessive and rigid.

The Phallic Stage - 3 to 6 years - At this age, children begin to learn the difference between male and


females, and they begin to learn more about their sex, gender and genitals. Freud also believed that at this stage, children begin to view their fathers as rivals to their mother’s affections. This he called the Oedipus complex. It describes the feelings of wanting to possess the mother and to replace the father. And the child begins to fear the father’s anger for wanting these things. He called this castration anxiety. The term Electra complex describes a similar set of feelings for girls. Freud believed that girls experience penis envy in the Electra complex. Eventually the child begins to feel attached to the opposite sex parent, and feels jealous of the same sex parent. Many critics have criticized Freud for this idea, calling it ridiculous, inaccurate, and demeaning to women.

The Latent Period - 6 to Puberty - During the latent period, sexual interests are suppressed. This means that


before the latent period, and during the latent period, sexual interests are inactive. The development of the ego and the super ego are active during this period, and affect the person and their personality a lot. This is the stage where many children start going to school, and they explore the world around them. They become more concerned with relationships with peers, hobbies and interests. This stage is important to building healthy relationships and communication and social skills.

Genital stage.jpg

The Genital Stage - Puberty to Death - This is the final stage of sexual development. The individual

develops a strong sexual interest for other people. This stage begins in puberty but may last their entire life. If the other stages have been completed successfully, then the individual should be mature, confident, caring and well balanced.



He started by listening to a description of the remembered dream (the manifest content). Then analysis takes place. The latent content can be uncovered by analyzing symbols in the manifest content. Unconscious desires ‘leak’ into the dream via symbols to protect the sleeper. Mental health comes from uncovering unconscious desires and dream analysis can be part of the therapy. Freud’s therapy is called psychoanalysis.

Three methods used in psychoanalysis:

Slip of the tongue: Moments when someone uses one word when meaning another

Free association: Someone is asked to say their thoughts out loud

Dream analysis: Uses free association alongside the usual description of the dream

Freud’s patients told him about their problems, and their disturbing dreams. Freud undercovered the meaning of their dreams to find out what exactly was wrong with them. He managed to explain why the patient had the problem and find a way to cure them. Psychoanalysis takes a long time because many dreams have to be related and many sessions undergone before an analyst can start to suggest what the dream might symbolise.

Evaluation of Freud's Theory

Strengths Weaknesses
  • Used unique methods to uncover unconscious wishes and desires, which are hard to access.
  • Gathered in depth and detailed information about individuals, qualitative data about real life (valid data).
  • His sample was biased, worked with mainly well of Viennese families. Not generelisable.
  • Concepts were unmeasurable
  • Interpreted his findings, so they might be subjective
  • There is an alternative biological theory, activation synthesis

Key Terminology

Manifest content is the recalled content of dreams.

Latent content is the underlying meaning of the dream

Condensation is the representation of two objects as one in a dream.

Displacement  is how one object in a dream is a symbol for another object.  

Secondary Elaboration is adding ideas to the dream content to make it into a coherent story.

Dreamwork is the term analysis of dreams.

Subjective means that it could be interpreted differently by someone else.

Objective means that it is not biased, not affected by someone's opinion.

Valid data means that the data is useful and applies to real life.

Generalisable means that the data can be generalized to everyone else.

Psychoanalysis is the treatment that Freud uses to treat his patients.