A Science Odyssey 3 Guests wearing a Sigmund Freud mask.  Spotlight on Guest 1.

What influences personality?

Childhood experiences have a great influence on personality. Everyone is born with sexual and aggressive urges -- urges that we must learn to control early in our lives. As we learn to control the urges, we also learn right from wrong.

My theory of psychosexual development describes how a child goes through several stages, fixating on particular parts of the body. In one of these stages, a boy competes with his father for the attention of his mother; a girl competes with her mother for the attention of her father. What the child experiences during these stages will affect personality in later years.

In more general terms, personality can be described as a kind of energy system, not unlike a steam engine. The energy fueling personality comes in two forms: life drives, which are a person's erotic and pleasure-seeking urges, and death drives, which are aggressive and destructive urges.

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