BLPCM1 : Good Will Hunting Through A Psychology Analysis

BLPCM1 : Good Will Hunting Through A Psychology Analysis

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BLPCM1 : Good Will Hunting Through A Psychology Analysis

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BLPCM1 : Good Will Hunting Through A Psychology Analysis

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Course Code: BLPCM1
University: University Of Cambridge is not sponsored or endorsed by this college or university

Country: United Kingdom


Throughout the semester, you have learned about several theories and practices of psychology across many different areas. This assignment will give you an opportunity to apply some of those major concepts, theoretical perspectives, and empirical findings. In completing this assignment, you will hone your critical thinking skills, recognizing and applying psychological principles, and communicating your understanding of individual, community, and organizational life experiences to a general audience.
For this assignment, you will write a paper based on a film or book that you will explore through the application of psychological theory and research.


Directed by Gus Van Sant, the 1997 American film Good Will Hunting, explores psychologically complex, yet realistic domains of the human mind, especially through the characters of the protagonist Will Hunting (Matt Damon) and Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams). Through the use of Psychodynamic Theory, Psychosocial theory of Erikson, and the Five Factor Model of Personality Assessment, this paper aims to study with a nuanced perspective how unhappy childhood can have severe implications on the psychological development of a person, which is exquisitely exemplified by the aforementioned characters in the film. The character of Will in the film Good Will Hunting is a complex subject, which can be studied through numerous psychological theories, and the film shows how those theories have practical, real-life implications.
Will Hunting is the protagonist of the story. He is a 20 years old youth and a janitor at the MIT, but possesses extraordinary genius in mathematics and has an eidetic memory. As a child, he was abused by his father and has no family to fall back upon, which has resulted in psychological complexities where he constantly undermines his self-worth and suffers from an inferiority complex, which has also resulted in the development of certain defense mechanisms. Will’s life changes after he comes in contact with Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard), professor of mathematics at the MIT, and more through his connection with Dr. Sean Maguire, a psychological therapist who helps Will to face his past, gain self-confidence, and evaluate and establish his relationship with others, most importantly, Skylar (Minnie Driver) for whom Will had a certain affection. Sean succeeds in this venture by relating to Will about his own life from an affected perspective, where he was also victim to child abuse (“Good Will Hunting Psychological Analysis”, 2018). He also tells Will how he came across his wife for the first time, although later on she had died of cancer. All these helped Will to resolve his psychological complexities.
The character of Will can be studied from the perspective of Psychodynamic Theory. In psychology, this theory is not a branch of something, but rather the source from which Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, or the theories of other psychologists like Erikson, Jung or Adler has evolved (Knight, 2017). Psychodynamic Theory attempts to study the personality traits of characters based on the drives or desires located in the unconscious realm within a person’s mind, which interacts with and directly influences his/her feelings, emotions, behavioral patterns and rationality (McLeod, 2018). Personality is shaped through a modification of those drives as an adult. The theory states that these actions within a person’s mind are triggered by events or experiences that the person has gone through in his/her childhood. The influence of those events continue to remain in the zone of the unconscious and shape one’s personality. Since it acts in the zone of the unconscious, these influences often go unnoticed, even by the person concerned. The theory further claims that all instinctive behavior has a direct causal relationship with those past events. The psychological complexities that a person goes through as an adult is rooted in the childhood experiences (Tezel, KI?LAK & Boysan, 2015). Freud argues that the instinctive elements of personality are determined by conflicting forces of the Eros (libido) and Thanatos, which are the basic instincts of life and death. Freud’s psychoanalysis talks about a conflict between the Id and Superego in the realm of the unconscious, which gets mediated by the ego in the conscious part of the mind. That conflict often creates anxiety, which results in the adoption of defense mechanisms like repression or denial (McLeod, 2018). In the film Good Will Hunting’ Will’s underestimation of himself and dilemma in the professing of love or strengthening of other social ties due to an innate inferiority complex arise from such defense mechanism. His attempts to get rid of the traumatic experiences of childhood, which lingers around in his unconscious mind, gets projected in his denial to come to terms with the realities of neither his own self-worth, nor its interaction with the immediate social environment.
Erik and Joan Erikson proposed 8 stages of psychological development of an individual which came to be regarded as Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory. It claims that the successful completion of these stages are fundamental to the psychological stability of an adult (McLeod, 2018). In the film, Will’s situation denied him any success in the completion of most of these stages. For Will, the very nascent stage of Infancy was hampered, where either trust or mistrust is initiated. Due to the abuse inflicted on him by his father, the faculty of trust was never adequately developed for which Will was unable to trust not only others, but also his own self due to a lack of self-confidence. In the next stage of toddlerhood, autonomy at work was not adequately developed which resulted in self-doubt. The propensity to take an initiative was nonetheless developed, which made him to speak up for himself as well as his friends at the court. Although keeping to the shadows, this propensity also made him solve Professor Lambeau’s questions. The theory claims that the next stage of middle childhood is the time for development of industriousness and confidence, otherwise an individual is likely to suffer from an inferiority complex, which is what happened with Will (Syed, & McLean, 2017). This has resulted Will to feel less competent, in spite of his extraordinary faculty in mathematics. Lack of a proper family hindered the growth of an identity during his adolescence years. In spite of his capability, lack of guidance led him to choose a profession to which he did not belong. Personality problems triggered from this and he did not have a clear idea of what he wanted to achieve. It was only after this stage, in terms of Erikson’s model, that Will came in contact with Dr. Sean Maguire, in whom he found a sort of paternal affection that had been denied to him earlier by his own father. In his psychotherapy, Dr. Maguire, by providing examples from his own life, helped Will to learn the values from which he was kept aloof till then, which was furthered by Will’s own intelligence (Knight, 2017).
The character of Will Hunting may also be studied from the perspective of the Five Factor Model (Big Five) of personality assessment that was forwarded by the psychologist Lewis Goldberg. According to this theory, there are five major factors based on which the personality of an individual can be analyzed. They are – Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (Chapman, & Goldberg, 2017). The rate of each of these qualities is an issue of balance. Openness refers to the curiosity, adventurous mentality or the imaginative power as against cautious and pragmatic behavior. However, an excess of openness may lead to anti-social activities, while an excess of the opposite may lead to strict dogmatic beliefs. Will was a strange amalgamation of both, whereby he possessed supreme imaginative powers in mathematics and had a photographic memory, which his traumatic childhood prevented from having a full play, which resulted in his cautiousness. Conscientiousness is the ability to be disciplined and organized, that was lacking in Will due to a lack of proper guidance. It was only after he came in contact with Dr. Maguire that Will learned to organize his own life in a properly channelized track. Extroversion is one quality that was hugely lacking in Will. He was more reserved and preferred to stay in solitude or within the circle of his friends. This lack of extroversion had initially prevented him from proclaiming his love for Skylar. Most importantly, it made him solve Professor Lambeau’s latter question anonymously without any desire for recognition. Will displays a certain degree of agreeableness, which also results in his submissive nature, except when facing accusations at the court. Conversely, he shows a certain lack of agreeableness along with a detached attitude to Professor Lambeau’s initial trials to improve his life. Neuroticism or nervousness is the sole cause of Will’s psychological distress, and its effects had persisted in him from childhood, which made him vulnerable loose self-confidence (O’Boyle, et al. 2015).
Therefore, it may be concluded by saying that the character of Will in the film Good Will Hunting is a complex subject, which can be studied through numerous psychological theories, and the film shows how those theories have practical, real-life implications. In today’s world, children are frequently open to different kinds of abuses, which has a significant bearing on their growth, and are afraid to come up with the same. The trauma often persists throughout their entire life, and furthered by the anxiety of social harassment for behaviors which do not conform to the social stereotypes. In this regard, an assessment of their psychology through theoretical studies, like psychodynamic or psychosocial theories, followed by empathetic therapeutic sessions may help a traumatic person to recover. Dr. Maguire acts as a foil to not only Will’s father but also Will himself, as both had gone through child abuse, and it is through empathy that Will’s character gets channelized in the right direction.
Chapman, B. P., & Goldberg, L. R. (2017). Act-frequency signatures of the Big Five. Personality and individual differences, 116, 201-205.
Good Will Hunting Psychological Analysis. (2018). Retrieved from
Knight, Z. G. (2017). A proposed model of psychodynamic psychotherapy linked to Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development. Clinical psychology & psychotherapy, 24(5), 1047-1058.
McLeod, S. (2018). Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development. Retrieved from
McLeod, S. (2018). Psychodynamic Approach | Simply Psychology. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Oct. 2018].
O’Boyle, E. H., Forsyth, D. R., Banks, G. C., Story, P. A., & White, C. D. (2015). A meta?analytic test of redundancy and relative importance of the dark triad and five?factor model of personality. Journal of personality, 83(6), 644-664.
Syed, M., & McLean, K. C. (2017). Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development.
Tezel, F. K., KI?LAK, ?. T., & Boysan, M. (2015). Relationships between childhood traumatic experiences, early maladaptive schemas and interpersonal styles. Nöro Psikiyatri Ar?ivi, 52(3), 226.

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