Chances are you’ve awkwardly said one word when you really meant another, like sex for six. Most chalk this up to a Freudian Slip, which is based on psychologist Sigmund Freud’s theory that these occurrences actually reveal your hidden, subconscious desires. So is this long-standing theory true? Turns out, not really.
Freud’s research on the subconscious highly revolves around sex, since he believed this was our number one motivation. In fact, as the video from SciShow Psych explains, Freud thought that even toddlers should be sexually attracted to their opposite sex parent.
Host Hank Green explains that the mind is broken into three parts, the ID, Supergo and Ego. The ID is the part of your brain that’s associated with pleasure and your basic instincts while the superego is charged with helping you exhibit self control and morals. The ego is sort of the go-between for the two, which helps balance both parts of the personality. Think of it as the angel versus devil on your shoulder with a referee to manage the opposing points.
Freud believed that your basic desires reveal themselves when you’re talking, however, today’s psychologists don’t think that these errors indicate anything deeper. Instead, it’s more about how your brain processes language.
Green discusses an experiment from 1979 as evidence to debunk Freud. Male undergraduate students were asked to read a list of words that were easily read incorrectly. One group read them with a hot lab assistant in the room while the others were hooked up to electrodes and told they could be shocked during the reading. The first group made more errors related to sex words while the second group made errors related to electricity.
The researchers also measured how anxious the first group was about sex, thinking that those who weren’t anxious would have more errors if Freud’s theory was true. However, those who rated themselves as most anxious about sex had the most Freudian slips. The team behind the study believed that because you’re so focused on one way of thinking, like not getting electrocuted, it actually comes out in your speech.
According to Green, our brains usually catch language errors, but a few slip through the cracks, however, these slips don’t mean that we really only have sex on the brain. As he says, “Language and talking is just really hard.”
For more about how our brain processes words and language, watch the video: