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Human Instinct: Drawing on Theories of Freud and Rogers

“At the end of the day all personality theories come down to the same thing. Human beings are driven by instincts over which they have very little control”.

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Human instincts play a dominant role in behavior and interaction with the outside world. Freud supports this approach and states that human beings are driven by instincts. There has grown during the last thirty years all over the world a body of evidence that the ” instinctive ” in instinctive behavior and also in non- instinctive behavior may exert a powerful and even decisive influence upon conduct in health and disease. In contrast to Freud, Rogers rejects this idea and states that fear of destruction and actualization are the main driven of a human. It has been shown beyond a doubt that the return to consciousness of a forgotten motive, episode, or emotion may determine the disappearance of a whole system of human habits.


Personality theories help researchers and psychologists to explain human behavior patterns and the role of instincts in their behavior patterns. It contrasts with human instinct animal instinct is apparently directive, and therefore may be spoken of as specialized instinct. The position taken by psychologists is that instinct is really a learned organization of the animal’s spontaneous activity. Human instincts determine the behavior and actions of living beings and have a profound impact on decision-making and interaction. By instinct forces, researchers mean the energy-producing mechanisms such as hunger or sexual mechanisms.

These psychical mechanisms operate both by way of the nervous system, releasing muscle reflexes, or by way of chemicals, internal secretions effects. These may combine in various ways. As regards “drives,” this is another name for the instinct forces operating within the human organism to produce or generate spontaneous activities, or instincts (Nye 1981). The theories of Freud and Rogers are the main theories of human personality that help to explain the role and significance of instincts in the life of a person. These theories propose different arguments to prove or reject the impact of instincts on a human being. Thus, both psychologists agree that human beings are influenced by instincts and behave in accordance with internal stimuli outside their control.

Fraud’s View

According to Freud, human beings are driven by instincts. Analysis of the data of activity has also resulted in the making of an important distinction as regards the position of the material substances or dynamic energies operating upon the organism. When they are placed outside the human being they are known as Incentive. When they are placed inside the organism they are known as Motive. In either case, the material-dynamic complex must be relevant to the motivation (Rogers, 1995).

That is, the complex must be relevant to the process of the greatest magnitude and direction operating within the organism, which may perhaps be spoken of as the main drive. Subordinate instinct drives, incentives, and motives exist. The various methods used to measure instincts consist of various methods of interposing time, space, and energy as obstacles to be overcome. Time is measured as speed. Space is measured by the elimination of errors. The energy of the organism removes or assimilates the forms of interposing power (Nye 1981).

Rogers’ View

In contrast to Freud, Rogers suppose that human beings are driven by consciousness and fear of destruction rather than instincts. That mystery is at present impenetrable. That it is not measurable, that it is not directly observable is no more of an argument against it than the parallel questions concerning the existence and nature of electro-magnetism which might have been raised by a devoutly religious fanatic.

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Indirectly, instinct is observable and measurable, like many other phenomena and forces whose existence and properties are inferred from their effects. Much good experimental work has been done. Beyond the traditional way of his searching analysis of opposing viewpoints, one comes upon a land of barren theory in which purpose is to find the truth: feeling is verbalized sentimentalism, elaborated visceral reaction; and imagination, inspiration, creation, nothing but the swiftly evolved patterns of something like a rat running in an infinitely complicated maze.

As is well known to all sophisticated minds, nothing today in psychology and philosophy is more completely ostracized from all good thinking society than the doctrine of “interactionism”; Rogers underlines that the nature of the instinct, its causes and its effects, seems to me to be a perfectly respectable, perfectly legitimate, researchable scientific problem (Rogers, 1995). That it represents an effect of some kind, produced by the metabolism of the brain cells even the behaviorists might agree.

Whether the instinct can act or necessarily acts as a cause for events in the nervous system subsequent to its appearance is another question that remains to be studied and solved by scientific methods. In the first place, cognizant behavior always appears whenever the organism must act as a whole to dominate a new situation either inside or outside itself. In other words, instinctive behavior is correlated with non-habitual or novel behavior. As behavior becomes more and more habitual, more and more automatic, the instinctive phase disappears. All this would seem perfectly simple, obvious, and necessary to common sense.

Analysis of two positions

Freud and Rogers use different arguments and approaches to prove their position and understanding of instincts. I agree with Freud and his explanation because it helps to explain the actions and behavior patterns of a modern man. (Leser, 2006). To ignore that complex, to limit oneself to the study of movement cannot be good scientific practice. If awareness is mere, ineffectual noise, the individual should prove his position and actions. In these cases, the “rattle” is seen to be an integral, indissociable, essential part of the complete process. For it is the essence of the scientific method to maintain a receptive attitude toward all events and all the factors and processes that may possibly influence its data. Even to the man who is a specialist in behavior or prejudiced in favor of an emphasis upon behavior because of its practical social consequences (Nye 1981).

There is no getting away from the fact that the movements of the human organism are inextricably intertwined with the complex of feeling, awareness, and purpose which researchers call consciousness. The conditions under which instinctive behavior appears and disappears, the variations in those conditions, and the control of those conditions cannot be thrown out of any genuinely scientific court as incompetent, irrelevant, or immaterial. As a matter of fact, there is at hand a definite body of knowledge that bears upon those conditions. One need refer the inquirer only to the really enormous and detailed quantity of information available on the relation of the chemistry of the brain cells to the appearance and disappearance of consciousness (Leser, 2006).

That body of evidence may be named the evidence of psycho-analysis fathered by Sigmund Freud. The method of observation followed by Freud shows that under natural conditions there is never a single stimulus, but rather a whole group of stimuli so arranged into a total situation of interdependent parts that to take anyone away and to consider it wholly apart from its concomitants is to create a fairy-tale. And the same criticism applies to the so-called reactions and the study of reactions.

The behavior of an organism faced by a situation is always multifaceted. It behaves with all of itself, that is, with all of its parts (Eysenck, 1991). Where it is not excited appears inhibition and where it is not inhibited appears excitement. One is entitled then, one is forced, therefore, to speak of a new total situation in the organism arising because it is responding to the total situation in the environment. To call that response simply a reaction, such as a movement or even a series of movements, is crassly unjust and bad science (Nye 1981).

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The human instinct has an individuality all its own. To displace any of the parts is to violate that individuality, equivalent in effect to murdering and dismembering it, or to cremation quite as violent. As these metaphors imply, it does, at any rate, put the logical researcher and the behaviorist in the position of talking about a single thing when he means many things, of discussing a stimulus when he means the inseparable constituent of a configuration.

In short, it puts him in the position of an exponent of the most confused and inaccurate kind of thinking. Again it becomes patent that the idea of the conditioned reflex or reaction was the outcome of a thoroughly superficial and scientifically unjust method of emphasizing data favorable and ignoring data unfavorable to a religious method of dealing with the problems of behavior (Eysenck, 1991). Neither a single stimulus nor a single sensation ever occurs in nature, nor can it really and readily be made to occur in the laboratory (Rogers, 1995).


The instincts form the behavior of an individual and seem to rehabilitate the idea of instinct which the behaviorists claim they have made obsolete. All the logic of behaviorist explanations and understanding is in fact completely contradicted. The eating habit is established long before and is continued for years before the appearance of personal activity. All the logic of psychological explanations cannot predict the type of instinctive behavior thus affected greatly.

Even if a psychologist could put a human being into a vacuum and flash a light on him, the light would emerge from a background of vacuity. Meanwhile, it would be necessary to neglect the organic changes of attitude, readiness, fatigue, and interest in him. Instincts have been most annoying or even dangerous for the personality, according to Rogers. Rogers’s findings paved the way for further research and investigations in the field of instincts and human psychology. Still, Freud created the main principles of personality theories used by modern psychologists in their investigations, psychoanalyses, and medical practice.


Eysenck, H.J. (1991). Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Leser, D. (2006). Theories of Personality: A Systems Approach. Allyn & Bacon; 1 edition.

Nye, R.D. (1981) Three Psychologies. 2nd Edition.

Rogers, C.R. (1995). On Becoming a Person. Mariner Books; 1 edition.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 6). Human Instinct: Drawing on Theories of Freud and Rogers. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2021, November 6). Human Instinct: Drawing on Theories of Freud and Rogers.

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