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Psychology EncyclopediaPsychological Dictionary: Abacus to Courage

The moral dimension of human consciousness, the means by which humans modify instinctual drives to conform to laws and moral codes.

Sigmund Freud viewed the conscience as one of two components of the superego, the other being the ego-ideal. In this scheme, the conscience prevents people from doing things that are morally wrong, and the ego-ideal motivates people to do things that are considered morally right. This theory suggests that the conscience is developed by parents, who convey their beliefs to their children. They in turn internalize these moral codes by a process of identification with a parent.

Other psychologists have proposed different theories about the development of the conscience.

Further Reading

Weissbud, Bernice. "How Kids Develop a Conscience." Parents' Magazine (December 1991): 156.

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