Lecturer's Précis - Freud (1923)

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First published online 14:27 BST 8th May 2002, Copyright Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). This version [2.1 - link to graphic] dated 09:00 BST 3rd July 2018

An earlier version of this material appeared in Smith (1999). It is reproduced here with minor amendments and supported with hyperlinks.


Sigmund Freud as Cognitive Modeler (Example Four of Five)

Read firstly Freud (1891), Freud (1896), and Freud (1900).

Here is how the 1900 diagram had evolved in Freud's thinking by the time he wrote "The Ego and the Id" in 1923. The diagram is shaped by the following theoretical statement on the status of the unconscious mind:

"We see, however, that we have two kinds of unconscious - the one which is latent, but capable of becoming conscious, and the one which is repressed and which is not, in itself and without more ado, capable of becoming conscious. [] The latent [we] call preconscious [vorbewusst] [and we] restrict the term unconscious [unbewusst] to the dynamically unconscious repressed." (Freud, 1923:5-6.)

To see later developments still, together with concluding remarks, click Freud (1933).

Freud's (1923) Classic Hierarchical Diagram - Mark 1: In diagrams (a) and (b), from the German and English editions of The Ego and The Id respectively, we see not only a more precise indication of the number of mental control layers being proposed, but also a change from a linear to a vertical alignment. The information flowlines which would have done so much to clarify Freud's theoretical assertions have been left implicit. The key levels of the diagram, from the apex downwards, are as follows:

  • Wahrnehmung-Bewusstein (W-Bw), or "perceptual consciousness" (Pcpt-Cs).
  • Vorbewusstein (Vbw), or preconscious (Pcs).
  • Ich, or ego.
  • Es, or id.

The ego remains "the coherent organisation of mental processes" (p8). It comes with a "cap of hearing" (p18) (akust. or acoust., top left), and is "that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world through the medium of the Pcpt-Cs" (pp18-19). The id is now tucked away in the lower reaches of the hierarchy, and there is a barrier (invaginated, right) allowing repressed (verdrängte) material (Vdgt) to be kept from Pcpt-Cs by the process of repression.

If this diagram fails to load automatically, it may be accessed separately at



Diagram (a) redrawn from Freud (1923/1992:265), and diagram (b) from Freud (1923/1960:18). This version Copyright © 2002, Derek J. Smith.



Freud, S. (1923/1960). The Ego and the Id. New York: Norton. [Being the Norton edition of the 1960 Strachey translation of the German original.]

Freud, S. (1923/1992). Das Ich und das Es. Frankfurt: Fischer. [Latest German edition.]

Smith D.J. (1999). Freudian Structures in the Computational Mind: Some Lessons from the Study of Ritual Sacrifice. Cardiff: UWIC. [ISBN: 1900666111] [Transcript of paper presented 15th April 1999 to the 13th Annual Conference of the History and Philosophy of Psychology Section of the BPS, York.]

Recommended Reading

"The Ego and the Id"

Freud (1923/1960)

To see an abstract, or to order this book, click here

[Freud jacket]


Recommended Reading [for German readers]

"Das Ich und das Es"

Freud (1923/1992)

To see an abstract, or to order this book, click here

[Freud jacket]