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It is not necessary therefore to understand or agree with Freud's ideas in order to appreciate and use Erikson's theory. If you naturally relate to Freud's ideas fine, otherwise leave them to one side. Part of Erikson's appeal is that he built on Freud's ideas in a socially meaningful and accessible way - and in a way that did not wholly rely on adherence to fundamental Freudian thinking.

Some of Freud's theories by their nature tend attract a lot of attention and criticism - sex, breasts, genitals, and bodily functions generally do - and if you are distracted or put off by these references then ignore them, because they are not crucial for understanding and using Erikson's model. Age guide is a broad approximation, hence the overlaps. The stages happen in this sequence, but not to a fixed timetable. This is a quick light overview of Freud's sexual theory and where it equates to Erikson's crisis stages.

It's not meant to be a serious detailed analysis of Freud's psychosexual ideas. That said, I'm open to suggestions from any Freud experts out there who would like to offer improved quick, easy, down-to-earth pointers to the Freudian psychosexual theory. Remember age range is just a very rough guide, especially through the later levels when parenthood timing and influences vary.

Hence the overlap between the age ranges in the interpretation below. Interpretations of age range vary among writers and academics. Erikson intentionally did not stipulate clear fixed age stages, and it's impossible for anyone to do so.

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Below is a reminder of the crisis stages, using the crisis terminology of the original model aside from the shorter terminology that Erikson later preferred for stages one and eight. The 'Life Stage' names were suggested in later writings by Erikson and did not appear so clearly in the model. Age range and other descriptions are general interpretations and were not shown specifically like this by Erikson. Crisis stages are driven by physical and sexual growth, which then prompts the life issues which create the crises. The crises are therefore not driven by age precisely.

Erikson never showed precise ages, and I prefer to state wider age ranges than many other common interpretations. The final three adult stages happen at particularly variable ages. It's worth noting also that these days there's a lot more 'life' and complexity in the final old age stage than when the eight stages were originally outlined, which no doubt fuelled Joan Erikson's ideas on a 'ninth stage' after Erik's death.

This is reasonable for most boys, but given that Erikson and Freud cite the onset of puberty as the start of this stage, stage 5 can begin for girls as early as age nine. People experience these 'psychosocial crisis' stages in a fixed sequence, but timings vary according to people and circumstances. This is why the stages and the model are represented primarily by the names of the crises or emotional conflicts themselves e.

Age and life stages do feature in the model, but as related rather than pivotal factors, and age ranges are increasingly variable as the stages unfold. Each of the eight 'psychosocial crises' is characterised by a conflict between two opposing positions or attitudes or dispositions or emotional forces. Erikson never really settled on a firm recognisable description for the two components of each crisis, although in later works the first disposition is formally referred to as the 'Adaptive Strength'.

The difficulty in 'labeling' the first and second dispositions in each crisis is a reflection that neither is actually wholly good or bad, or wholly positive or negative. The first disposition is certainly the preferable tendency, but an ideal outcome is achieved only when it is counter-balanced with a degree of the second disposition. Successful development through each crisis is requires a balance and ratio between the two dispositions, not total adoption of the apparent 'positive' disposition, which if happens can produce almost as much difficulty as a strong or undiluted tendency towards the second 'negative' disposition.

Some of the crisis stages are easier to understand than others. Each stage contains far more meaning than can be conveyed in just two or three words. Crisis stage one is 'Trust versus Mistrust', which is easier to understand than some of the others. Stage four 'Industry versus Inferiority' is a little trickier.

You could say instead 'usefulness versus uselessness' in more modern common language. Erikson later refined 'Industry' to 'Industriousness', which probably conveys a fuller meaning. In this respect Erikson's theory goes a long way to explaining why too much of anything is not helpful for developing a well-balanced personality. For example passing successfully through the Industry versus Inferiority crisis stage four, between years of age for most people produces the 'basic psychosocial virtue' of 'competence' plus related strengths such as 'method', skills, techniques, ability to work with processes and collaborations, etc.

Where passage through a crisis stage is less successful in other words not well-balanced, or worse still, psychologically damaging then to a varying extent the personality acquires an unhelpful emotional or psychological tendency, which corresponds to one of the two opposite extremes of the crisis concerned.

Neglect and failure at any stage is is problematical, but so is too much emphasis on the apparent 'good' extreme. For example unsuccessful experiences during the Industry versus Inferiority crisis would produce a tendency towards being overly focused on learning and work, or the opposite tendency towards uselessness and apathy. In the most extreme cases the tendency can amount to serious mental problems.

Erikson used particular words to represent each psychosocial crisis. As ever, single words can be misleading and rarely convey much meaning. Here is more explanation of what lies behind these terms. Erikson reinforced these crisis explanations with a perspective called 'psychosocial modalities', which in the earlier stages reflect Freudian theory, and which are paraphrased below.

They are not crucial to the model, but they do provide a useful additional viewpoint. Erikson described success as a 'favourable ratio' between the two extremes at each crisis stage. A basic virtue is not the result of simply achieving the positive extreme of each crisis. Basic virtue is attained by a helpful balance, albeit towards the 'positive', between the two extremes.

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Helpfully balanced experience leads to positive growth. Chief life stage issues and relationships are also re-stated as a reminder as to when things happen.


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At times he referred to 'basic virtues' as 'basic strengths'. A bit confusing, but the main point is that based on what observed for each stage he identified one clear basic virtue and one secondary virtue. From this he was able to and we can too - he encouraged people to do so extrapolate other related strengths. Bear in mind also that the first disposition in each crisis is also inevitably a related strength that comes from successfully experiencing each stage.

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Erikson recognised this by later referring to the first disposition e. It's not a precise fit obviously because the Erikson and Maslow perspectives are different, but the correlations are clear and fascinating. Erikson separately listed a series of 'Related Elements of Social Order' within his psychosocial model, which although quite obscure in this context, might aid the comparison.

You might have your own views on this. For what it's worth here's mine:. I'm not suggesting a direct fit between Erikson's and Maslow's models.

Rather, this simply puts the two perspectives alongside each other to show how similar aspects could could inter-relate. Judge for yourself. We might also use the Erikson model to help explain what happens in Maslow's theory when a particular trauma sweeps away a part of someone's life perhaps due to redundancy, divorce, social exclusion, bankruptcy, homelessness , which causes the person to revisit certain needs and internal conflicts crises which were once satisfied earlier but are no longer met.

According to both Erikson's and Maslow's theories, anyone can find themselves revisiting and having to resolve needs or crisis feelings or experiences from earlier years. Later Erikson developed clearer ideas and terminology - notably 'Maladaptations' and 'Malignancies' - to represent the negative outcomes arising from an unhelpful experience through each of the crisis stages.

In crude modern terms these negative outcomes might be referred to as 'baggage', which although somewhat unscientific, is actually a very apt metaphor, since people tend to carry with them through life the psychological outcomes of previously unhelpful experiences. Psychoanalysis, the particular therapeutic science from which Erikson approached these issues, is a way to help people understand where the baggage came from, and thereby to assist the process of dumping it.

To an extent these negative outcomes can also arise from repeating or revisiting a crisis, or more realistically the essential aspects of a crisis, since we don't actually regress to a younger age, instead we revisit the experiences and feelings associated with earlier life.

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This chart is laid out with the crisis in the centre to aid appreciation that 'maladaptations' develop from tending towards the extreme of the first 'positive' disposition in each crisis, and 'malignancies' develop from tending towards the extreme of the second 'negative' disposition in each crisis. A maladaptation could be seen as 'too much of a good thing'. A malignancy could be seen as not enough.

Erikson was careful to choose words for the maladaptations and malignancies which convey a lot of meaning and are very symbolic of the emotional outcomes that are relevant to each stage. In each case the maladaptation or malignancy corresponds to an extreme extension of the relevant crisis disposition for example, 'Withdrawal' results from an extreme extension of 'Mistrust'. Thinking about this helps to understand what these outcomes entail, and interestingly helps to identify the traits in people - or oneself - when you encounter the behavioural tendency concerned.

Malignancies and maladaptations can manifest in various ways. Here are examples, using more modern and common language, to help understand and interpret the meaning and possible attitudes, tendencies, behaviours, etc. In each case the examples can manifest as more extreme mental difficulties, in which case the terms would be more extreme too. These examples are open to additional interpretation and are intended to be a guide, not scientific certainties. Neither do these examples suggest that anyone experiencing any of these behavioural tendencies is suffering from mental problems.

Erikson never established any absolute measurement of emotional difficulty or tendency as to be defined as a malignancy or maladaptation.