From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Internalization (or internalisation) is the process of making something internal, with more specific meanings in various fields. It is the opposite of externalization.

Psychology and sociology explore the concept of internalization, which refers to the integration of attitudes, values, standards, and opinions into one's own identity. Internalization plays a crucial role in learning, moral development, and the formation of the super ego. Early socialization and internalized values can shape a child's moral character and future behavior. A child developmental study found that children who internalized parental rules and showed empathy tended to perceive themselves as more moral and were rated by parents and teachers as more competent and adaptive.

Internalization is also relevant in behavioral psychology, where it can refer to disorders and behaviors that are not externally evident, such as depression, anxiety disorder, bulimia, and anorexia. In other fields, internalization has various meanings, such as endocytosis in biology, the practice of multinational enterprises in economics and management, and executing orders from a firm's own inventory in finance.

Psychology and sociology[edit]

In psychology, internalization is the outcome of a conscious mind reasoning about a specific subject; the subject is internalized, and the consideration of the subject is internal. Internalization of ideals might take place following religious conversion, or in the process of, more generally, moral conversion.[1] Internalization is directly associated with learning within an organism (or business) and recalling what has been learned.

In psychology and sociology, internalization involves the integration of attitudes, values, standards and the opinions of others into one's own identity or sense of self. In psychoanalytic theory, internalization is a process involving the formation of the super ego.[2] Many theorists believe that the internalized values of behavior implemented during early socialization are key factors in predicting a child's future moral character. The self-determination theory[3] proposes a motivational continuum from the extrinsic to intrinsic motivation and autonomous self-regulation. Some research suggests a child's moral self starts to develop around age three.[4] These early years of socialization may be the underpinnings of moral development in later childhood. Proponents of this theory suggest that children whose view of self is "good and moral" tend to have a developmental trajectory toward pro-social behavior and few signs of anti-social behavior.

In one child developmental study,[5] researchers examined two key dimensions of early conscience – internalization of rules of conduct and empathic affects to others – as factors that may predict future social, adaptive and competent behavior. Data was collected from a longitudinal study of children, from two parent families, at age 25, 38, 52, 67 and 80 months. Children's internalization of each parent's rules and empathy toward each parent's simulated distress were observed at 25, 38 and 52 months. Parents and teachers rated their adaptive, competent, pro-social behavior and anti-social behavior at 80 months. The researchers found that first, both the history of the child's early internalization of parental rules and the history of their empathy predicted the children's competent and adaptive functioning at 80 months, as rated by parents and teachers. Second, children with stronger histories of internalization of parental rules from 25 to 52 months perceived themselves as more moral at 67 months. Third, the children that showed stronger internalization from 25 to 52 months came to see themselves as more moral and "good". These self-perceptions, in turn, predicted the way parents and teachers would rate their competent and adaptive functioning at 80 months.

As a symptom[edit]

In behavioral psychology, the concept of internalization may also refer to disorders and behaviors in which a person deals with stressors in manners not externally evident. Such disorders and behaviors include depression, anxiety disorder, bulimia and anorexia.[6]


In sciences such as biology, internalization is another term for endocytosis, in which molecules such as proteins are engulfed by the cell membrane and drawn into the cell.

Economics and management[edit]

In economics, internalization theory explains the practice of multinational enterprises (MNEs) to execute transactions within their organization rather than relying on an outside market. It must be cheaper for an MNE to internalize the transfer of its unique ownership advantages between countries than to do so through markets. In other words, the alternative to internalization through direct investment is some form of licensing of the firm's know-how to a firm in the target economy.


In finance, internalization can refer to several concepts. "When you place an order to buy or sell a stock, your broker has choices on where to execute your order. Instead of routing your order to a market or market-makers for execution, your broker may fill the order from the firm's own inventory – this is called 'internalization'. In this way, your broker's firm may make money on the "spread" – which is the difference between the purchase price and the sale price."[7] For a related issue regarding trade execution, see payment for order flow.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Doran, Robert M. (2011), "Moral Conversion from and to" (PDF), What Does Bernard Lonergan Mean by 'Conversion'?, University of Toronto Press, p. 20, archived from the original (PDF file, direct download 61.8 KB) on January 21, 2022, retrieved October 7, 2012
  2. ^ Corsini, R. (1999). The Dictionary of Psychology, USA: Taylor & Francis.
  3. ^ Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behaviour. New York, N.Y: Plenum Press.
  4. ^ Emde, R. N., Biringen, Z., Clyman, R. B. & Oppenheim, D. (1991). The Moral Self of Infancy: Affective Core and Procedural Knowledge. Developmental Review, 11, 251-270.
  5. ^ Kochanska, G., Koenig, J., Barry, R., Kim, S. & Yoon, J. (2010). Children's Conscience During Toddler and Preschool Years, Moral Self, and a Competent, Adaptive Developmental Trajectory. Developmental Psychology. Vol. 46, No. 5, 1320-1332.
  6. ^ Tandon, M.; Cardeli, E.; Luby, J. (2009). "Internalizing Disorders in Early Childhood: A Review of Depressive and Anxiety Disorders". Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 18 (3): 593–610. doi:10.1016/j.chc.2009.03.004. PMC 3184300. PMID 19486840.
  7. ^


  • Meissner, W. W. (1981), Internalization in Psychoanalysis, International Universities Press, New York.
  • Wallis, K. C. and J. L. Poulton (2001), Internalization: The Origins and Construction of Internal Reality, Open University Press, Buckingham and Philadelphia.
  • Oxford Open Learning GCSE Psychology - Module three: lesson nine.