Difference Between Ego and Superego | Definition, Concept, Characteristics (2024)

Main Difference – Ego vs Superego

According to the theory of psychoanalysis, which was introduced by Sigmund Freud, who is considered the father of psychology, the human mind is divided into three different sections called “id,” the “ego,” and the “superego.” The unconscious state or ‘id’ is defined as humanity’s most primitive desires which act on satisfying individual biological needs whereas ‘superego’ involves the socially-induced conscience which counteracts id in the aspects of moral and ethical prohibitions. Additionally, the largely conscious ‘ego’ is known to be acting as a mediator between id ego and superego. Ego can be simply defined as common sense and superego can be defined as the conscience. This is the main difference between Ego and Superego.

In this article, we are going cover,

1. What is Ego – Definition, Concept, and Characteristics

2. What is Superego –Definition, Concept, and Characteristics

3. What is the difference between Ego and Superego
Difference Between Ego and Superego | Definition, Concept, Characteristics (1)

What is Ego

Ego means ‘I’ in Latin and the original German word, applied by Freud is known to be ‘Ich.’ Ego is defined as a sense of self and a set of psychological functions like reality-testing, defense, synthesis of information and memory. Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis explains ego as a concept which mediates between the id (unconscious state), the superego (conscious state) and the external world in order to maintain a balance between most primitive drives, moral ideals, and taboos with some limitations of reality. More importantly, ego should successfully interact with the above aspects and fulfill the fundamental function of adaptation, enforce the postponement of gratification of the drives and impulses of the id, until a time in which the targeted situation alters in a significant manner or a socially acceptable way to satisfy the drive is identified.

Id, which often involves the driving power of demanding satisfaction, is usually unacceptable to the superego and therefore the concept of ego has a huge responsibility in mediating these drives in order to implement appropriate or acceptable conditions. As a result of the constant struggle with impulses generated by id, the ego often tends to develop several defense mechanisms including repression, reaction formation, projection, regression, denial, rationalization, and sublimation.

These mechanisms are used when a certain internal drive is identified to threaten someone’s inner personality, create anxiety or build up dangerous situations which are usually original, unacceptable impulses, finding it hard to resurface.

In a summary, this concept of ‘huge consciousness’ or ego strongly stands between variable swings of id and superego, thus balancing an individual’s primitive needs and moral beliefs.

Additionally, a healthy ego enhances the capacity of an individual to adapt to reality and interact with the outside world in a way which maintains a positive balance between other two sections of the human mind, explained by Freud as Id and Superego.

Difference Between Ego and Superego | Definition, Concept, Characteristics (2)

Sigmund Freud

What is Superego

This is defined as a socially-induced conscience which counteracts the id, mainly in the aspects of moral and ethical thoughts. Some religious people have put forward the argument that superego is the part of a human in which God dwells. It is also described as a concept of “above-ego” of the mind.

This section of mind often stands in opposition to the desires, drives, fantasies, etc. generated by id. Superego urges an individual to postpone gratification of these desires until some realistic conditions are met.So basically, superego is identified as a part of human mind which sums up all the norms and prohibitions in a nutshell.

As far as the theoretical part is concerned, superego mainly involves conscience (punishments and warnings) and ego ideal (rewards and positive reinforcements) which function as positives and negatives in two different ends.

Superego of an individual is developed eventually since childhood, mainly depending on the internalization of the world view, norms, parental factors, and environment.

Interestingly, the particular individual will tend to feel guilt or shame if the requirements of this superego are not followed.

Freud has also put forward an important concept about a special inner power or an instinctual drive which is a part of the unconscious mind called the Oedipal Conflict against which superego arises. According to this explanation, feelings of guilt can spontaneously occur without any conscious fault.

Difference Between Ego and Superego | Definition, Concept, Characteristics (3)

Difference Between Ego and Superego

Although, both these terms are components of the human psyche, they act in different ways which are very important to be identified in order to explain the basic build-up of an individual’s personality.


In simpler words,

Ego is the common sense which is defined as an individual’s reaction to his needs and consists of well-organized sections including reasoning, tolerance, memory, understanding, judgment and planning.

Superego is defined as conscience, where an inner voice is constantly reminding the individual to be good. This helps a person to become perfect following his beliefs and norms in life associated with ethics and spiritual values.


Ego is thought to be more related to id or unconsciousness. For example, suppose an over-weight girl is highly passionate about chocolates. Knowing that this is sinful or inappropriate, most of the actions, related to chocolates like craving, watching, tempting and eating will make her feel guilty, anxious and inferior. This is exactly where superego comes to the drama of psyche.

Superego acts like your own critic, and either encourages you or blames you.

Basically, it takes away an individual’s thoughts from mere self-gratification and leads him towards the most acceptable pathway, ultimately making him stand in the society, as a faultless citizen.

Image Courtesy:

“Sigmund Freud LIFE”By Max Halberstadt – (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

“Id ego super ego”By ৰঞ্জন ভূঞা – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

Difference Between Ego and Superego | Definition, Concept, Characteristics (2024)


Difference Between Ego and Superego | Definition, Concept, Characteristics? ›

Remember, the id is the impulsive part of your personality that is driven by pleasure and repulsed by pain, the superego is the judgmental and morally correct part of your personality, and the ego is the conscious part of your personality that mediates between the id and the superego and makes decisions.

What is the difference between the ego ideal and the superego? ›

For Freud, the ego-ideal is closely bound up with our super-ego. The super-ego is "the vehicle of the ego ideal by which the ego measures itself, which it emulates, and whose demand for ever greater perfection it strives to fulfil" ("New Introductory Lectures" 22.65).

What are the characteristics of ego identity? ›

Ego identity is having a strong sense of self which is manifested by a confident awareness of one's enduring characteristics. For instance, a person with a healthy ego identity is knowledgeable of his strengths, weaknesses, passions, philosophy in life, and the kind of environment which he may thrive.

What is an example of id superego and ego? ›

Examples of the Id, Ego, and Superego

The id: I want to skip my workout because I feel lazy and just want to relax. The superego: I shouldn't skip the workout because it's essential for my health and discipline. The ego: I can do a shorter workout today and make up for it with a longer session tomorrow.

What are the characteristics of the id in psychology? ›

The id contains all of the life and death instincts, which Freud believed help compel behavior. This aspect of personality does not change as people grow older. It continues to be infantile, instinctive, and primal. It isn't in touch with reality or logic or social norms.

What is one way the ego is different from the id and superego? ›

The ego is fully conscious, while the id and superego are unconscious. Freud came up with the id and superego, but Carl Jung developed the idea of the ego. The ego is only concerned with pleasure, while the id and superego are concerned with what is socially acceptable.

What best describes the superego? ›

The superego is the ethical component of the personality and provides the moral standards by which the ego operates. The superego's criticisms, prohibitions, and inhibitions form a person's conscience, and its positive aspirations and ideals represent one's idealized self-image, or “ego ideal.”

Which of the following characteristics relates to the super ego? ›

The primary action of the superego is to suppress entirely any urges or desires of the id that are considered wrong or socially unacceptable. It also tries to force the ego to act morally rather than realistically. Finally, the superego strives for moral perfection, without taking reality into account.

What is the concept of the ego? ›

The ego usually refers to an individual's sense of self or perception of their identity. It can encompass a person's thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and values, and can be seen as a mediator between the individual and the external world.

What is the personality structure of the ego? ›

The ego is the largely conscious controller or decision-maker of personality. The ego serves as the intermediary between the desires of the id and the constraints of society contained in the superego (Figure 12.8, “Ego, Id, and Superego in Interaction”).

What are the characteristics of id, ego, and superego? ›

Remember, the id is the impulsive part of your personality that is driven by pleasure and repulsed by pain, the superego is the judgmental and morally correct part of your personality, and the ego is the conscious part of your personality that mediates between the id and the superego and makes decisions.

What is an example of ego behavior? ›

The ego, controlled by the reality principle, is what prevents you from acting on these urges. For example, if you are craving chocolate, the ego will make you wait until you can get your own chocolate bar instead of snatching the one your friend is about to enjoy.

What is the id ego superego for dummies? ›

As if the ego's job wasn't hard enough, playing referee between the id and reality, its performance is under constant scrutiny by a relentless judge, the superego. While the ego negotiates with the id, trying to prevent another tantrum, the superego judges the performance. Superego is another name for your conscience.

What is an example of an id personality? ›

Id: Meeting Basic Needs
  • Sally was thirsty. ...
  • A hungry baby cried until he was fed.
  • A toddler who wanted another helping of dessert whined incessantly until she was given another serving.
  • In line at the salad bar, Amy was so hungry that she shoved a handful of croutons in her mouth as she waited for the line to move.
Jul 19, 2022

What is the personality of the id? ›

Freud believed that the id was the most basic and primal component of personality. It is the only part of the personality that is present at birth. The id controls all of a person's instinctual behaviors. Since the id is primitive and instinctual, it operates on an unconscious level.

What is ID ego and superego in psychoanalytic criticism? ›

It is the ego's job to meet the needs of the id, while taking into consideration the reality of the situation. The ego works, in other words, to balance the id and superego. The ego is represented by a person, with a devil (the id) on one shoulder and an angel (the superego) on the other.

What is the ego ideal stage? ›

n. in psychoanalytic theory, the part of the ego that is the repository of positive identifications with parental goals and values that the individual genuinely admires and wishes to emulate, such as integrity and loyalty, and that acts as a model of how they wish to be.

What is the difference between ego ideal and conscience? ›

It has two parts: the conscience and the ego ideal, or the ideal self. The conscience helps us store information about actions that society considers 'bad' and can make us feel guilty. The ego ideal contains information about actions that society considers 'good' and can make us feel proud and validated.

What is an example of a superego? ›

The superego may help you feel good about your behavior when you suppress your most primal urges. Other examples of the superego include: A woman feels an urge to steal office supplies from work. However, her superego counteracts this urge by focusing on the fact that such behaviors are wrong.

What is narcissistic ego ideal? ›

In psychoanalysis, an internal notion of personal perfection serving as a model to which one strives to conform, derived from the fusion of narcissism and early identification (2) with parents.

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