psychological warfare

Use of propaganda against an enemy, supported by whatever military, economic, or political measures are required, and usually intended to demoralize an enemy or to win it over to a different point of view. It has been carried on since ancient times. The conquests of Genghis Khan were aided by expertly planted rumours about large numbers of ferocious Mongol horsemen in his army. Specialized units were a major part of the German and Allied forces in World War II and the U.S. armed forces in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Strategic psychological warfare is mass communications directed to a very large audience or over a considerable expanse of territory; tactical psychological warfare implies a direct connection with combat operations (e.g., the surrender demand). Consolidation psychological warfare consists of messages distributed to the rear of one's own advancing forces for the sake of protecting the line of communications, establishing military government, and carrying out administrative tasks within such a government.

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Use of tests to measure skill, knowledge, intelligence, capacities, or aptitudes and to make predictions about performance. Best known is the IQ test; other tests include achievement tests—designed to evaluate a student's grade or performance level—and personality tests. The latter include both inventory-type (question-and-response) tests and projective tests such as the Rorschach (inkblot) and thematic apperception (picture-theme) tests, which are used by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists to help diagnose mental disorders and by psychotherapists and counselors to help assess their clients. Experimental psychologists routinely devise tests to obtain data on perception, learning, and motivation. Clinical neuropsychologists often use tests to assess cognitive functioning of people with brain injuries. Seealso experimental psychology; psychometrics.

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Development of cognitive, emotional, intellectual, and social capabilities and functioning over the course of one's life. It is the subject matter of the discipline of developmental psychology. In infancy, language is acquired, perception, emotion, and memory take shape, and learning and motor skills develop. In childhood, speech emerges, cognitive abilities advance from concrete to abstract operations, emotional responses become more sophisticated, and empathy and moral reasoning begin to be employed. Adolescence is a time of rapid emotional and intellectual growth, while adulthood is characterized by the maturing of all developmental processes.

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The use of the word "energy" in psychological studies is comparatively new, although it was in use in psychological thought long before the modern physical concept of energy was fully developed, as a general descriptor of the forces that powered mental processes. The term thus retains its energy as a force or potential for work. Historical psychological thought and modern thought obviously have different uses of the word "energy," according to changes in scientific knowledge and philosophy.


The concept of psychic energy, or psychological energy, was developed in the field of psychodynamics, which is the thermodynamic study of mental systems. In 1874, German scientist Ernst von Brucke proposed that all living organisms are energy-systems governed by the principle of the conservation of energy. Brucke was also coincidentally the supervisor at the University of Vienna for first-year medical student Sigmund Freud who adopted this new paradigm. Freud argued that both the first law of thermodynamics and the second law of thermodynamics apply to mental processes, and posited the existence of a mental energy set to function according to these laws. In The Ego and the Id, Freud argued that the id was the source of the personality's desires, and therefore of the psychic energy that powered the mind .

In 1928, Carl Jung published a seminal essay entitled "On Psychic Energy." Later, the theory of psychodynamics and the concept of "psychic energy" was developed further by those such as Alfred Adler and Melanie Klein.

Popular Culture

Psychodynamic concepts have been applied to folk theories about ghosts and souls as the assumption that the energy animating humans and other living things is measurable and external to the body.


Further reading

  • Benton, D., Parker, P. Y., & Donohoe, R. T. (1996). The supply of glucose to the brain and cognitive functioning. Journal of Biosocial Science, 28, 463–479.
  • Fairclough, S. H., & Houston, K. (2004). A metabolic measure of mental effort. Biological Psychology, 66, 177-190.
  • Gailliot, M.T., Baumeister, R.F., et al. (in press). Self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: Willpower is more than a metaphor. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
  • Jung, C.G. (1960). On the Nature of the Psyche. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01751-4.
  • Laplanche, J.|Jean Laplanche and Pontalis, J.B. (1974). The Language of Psycho-Analysis. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1974.

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