Adler & Individual Psychology – MCAT Psychology | MedSchoolCoach

Adler & Individual Psychology

MCAT Psychology - Chapter 7- Section 1 - Personality & Identity - Personality Formation
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Sample MCAT Question- Adler & Individual Psychology

Adler rejected Freud’s emphasis on sexual desires, replacing it with a greater emphasis on:

a) the unconscious mind.

b) the desire for reaching one’s fullest potential.

c) libido.

d) archetypes.

B is correct. Alfred Adler was an ex-student of Freud who rejected Freud’s emphasis on sexual desires in favor of a greater emphasis on individual mastery, or reaching one’s fullest potential. A is incorrect because Carl Jung, not Adler, placed more emphasis on the unconscious mind after his split from Freud. C is incorrect since Freud himself emphasized libido and sexual desires. D is incorrect since archetypes were part of Jung’s, not Adler’s, theory of personality.

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Adler & Individual Psychology for the MCAT

Alfred Adler was an Austrian psychiatrist and psychotherapist whose innovative ideas revolutionized the field of psychology, giving rise to Individual Psychology. Adler’s approach, in stark contrast to Freudian psychoanalysis, focused on the individual’s unique experiences, social context, and their pursuit of personal goals and self-actualization. Rejecting the deterministic view of human behavior, Adler emphasized the significance of early childhood experiences, birth order, and the individual’s striving for superiority and significance. His theory highlighted the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and society, stressing the importance of holistic understanding in psychological well-being. Adler’s legacy extends beyond the realm of psychology, as his ideas have influenced education, family dynamics, and organizational behavior. This article discusses what you need to know about Adler and his contributions to psychology for the MCAT exam.

Adler & Individual Psychology

Like Jung, Adler was influenced by Freud, but disagreements with Freud’s theory also led Adler to develop his own theory of personality called individual psychology. Again, like Jung, Adler felt that Freud was too focused on sexual desires and conflicts. Instead, Adler believed that humans were motivated by a desire for mastery and desire to develop to their fullest potential. This contrasts with Freud, who believed that humans were primarily motivated by their unconscious thoughts.

Compensation, Inferiority Complex, and Overcompensation

Understanding of Adler’s theory of personality, requires understanding of several key terms that Adler developed. The first is compensation. Compensation refers to the efforts that one exerts to overcome their real or imagined inferiority and to develop their skills. This makes sense because if humans are motivated by a desire for mastery, that means to begin with, and at many points during their lives, they have not reached that mastery. They have not attained their fullest potential. So, because of that, they have to compensate in order to get there. 


Now, because this does result in feelings of inferiority, sometimes this can be a problem. In fact, if these feelings of inferiority can become excessive, this can result in feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, which we call the inferiority complex


And finally, we have overcompensation. This is exactly what it sounds like. This is behavior that exceeds what is necessary for compensation. An example would be an individual buying expensive clothes and cars to try to cover up their inferiority complex. 

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