Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Primary Process

  • Nicole Nehrig
  • Philip S. Wong
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_620-1



Primary process thought is a developmentally early form of cognition often associated with psychoanalytic topographic and structural models of the mind. This mode of thought is characteristically preverbal, illogical, and pleasure-seeking; it is associated with mental functioning common in childhood, psychosis, dreams, and creativity.


Freud regarded primary process and secondary process as two distinct but complementary modes of functioning, often linked to a specific model of the psychic apparatus (e.g., structural model of the id, ego, and superego). The balance between these two basic modes of thought varies between and within individuals at different points in time. While there has been substantial controversy around this theory, primary process thought has received support in fields such as cognitive neuroscience and linguistic analysis.

Freudian Primary Process

Within Freud’s topographic...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Long Island UniversityBrooklynUSA
  2. 2.VA New York Harbor Healthcare SystemManhattan CampusNew YorkUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kevin Meehan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLong Island UniversityBrooklynUSA