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Pleasure Principle

  1. Merton A. Shill

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0691

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Shill, M. A. 2010. Pleasure Principle. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1.

Author Information

  1. University of Michigan

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Sigmund Freud considered the pleasure principle, together with the reality principle, to be a basic regulatory principle of the mind. Influenced by Gustav Fechner, a German physicist considered to be the father of psychophysics, Freud theorized that conscious pleasure and unpleasure (discomfort) were experienced when mental stimulation became too intense. Freud proposed the term pleasure principle to denote an inferred mental process that regulates all stimuli impinging on the mind, whether from internal psychological or somatic sources or from external sources of any kind. This principle facilitates psychic processes that reduce or eliminate unpleasant extremes and, in this way, restore mental equilibrium. He later suggested that the mind, in accordance with this principle, develops an unconscious danger signal of anxiety to forewarn itself of impending overstimulation. This signal anxiety then triggers a variety of self-protective processes in the ego, including physical removal (flight from the anticipated danger) or the various ego defenses, which are the psychic equivalents of physical flight or avoidance (Shill, 2004).


  • motivation;
  • pleasure principle;
  • psychoanalytic theory;
  • reality principle