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Chapter 8
Theories of Personality






One of the most puzzling questions in personality theorizing has been the question between internal and external determinants of behavior. In other words, is behavior caused by:Internal, instinct or innate pre-disposition tendencies that lead a person to act in a certain way


Externally, caused by the situation in which one finds oneself in, or the environment.


Up to now we have studied personality from a psychoanalysis view. Lets look at Experimental Behavior. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO?

Experimental behaviorists study personality "in laboratory setting". Their precise methods reflect an "empirical" point of view and careful manipulation of variables under specified controlled conditions.Psychoanalyst study personality using a "clinical approach" which include intensive interviews and observation.



The most noted behaviorists theorists include Pavlov, who explained the process of classical conditioning; Watson, whose theory recommended an emphasis on overt behavior; Thorndike, who formulated the law of effect; and Hull, who clarified the concept of drive reduction.


John Dollar and Neal Miller placed a great emphasis on habits. Habits are defined as some kind of learned association between a stimulus and response that makes them occur together frequently. Habits represent a temporary structure because they can appear and disappear; because they are learned, they can also be unlearned.

Dollar and Miller felt that the structure of personality could be defined very simply as habits. Consequently, their primary concern was to specify or create those conditions in the environment that encouraged the acquisitions of habits. We acquire habits and develop specific behavior responses through the process of learning.

Dollar and Miller suggests that the learning process can be broken down into four main conceptual parts:





Drive is a stimulus that impels a person to act, but in no way does the drive direct or specify behavior. It simply urges. Examples = hunger, thirst, the need for sleep.

Cues is a specific stimulus that tells you when, where, and how to respond. Example = the ringing of a bell or the time on a clock is a cue to students to enter or leave the classroom.

Response is ones reaction to the cue.

Reinforcement refers to the effect of the response. If the present response is not reinforcing, the individual is placed in a learning dilemma and will try different response until one develops that satisfied the drive.



A statement that illustrates all of the above conceptual parts might be:

If your are hungry, the yellow arches of McDonalds may act as a clue directing us to stop and get something to eat in order to create a feeling of satisfaction.


Dollar and Miller conducted a number of studies in the area of responses to frustration and Conflict.

Frustration occurs when one is unable to reduce a drive because the response that could satisfy it has been blocked. Example

The child who is not permitted to take a cookie from the cookie jar is frustrated

If frustration arises from a situation in which incompatible responses are occurring at the same time, the situation is described as one of conflict.Dollar and Miller distinguish among different types of conflicts:

Approach Approach Conflicts: You are attracted to two goals that are positive but incompatible. Example (You are in love with two people at once and are forced to make a choice).Avoidance Avoidance Conflicts: You face two undesirable alternatives. Example (A hot plate is burning your hand but if you drop it you spill your food).Approach Avoidance Conflict: You are both attracted and repelled toward a goal or object. Example (Your date is both attractive and obnoxious).

To better understand these concepts, each conflict can be diagrammed, and illustrated, as follows (Figure 8.2, on page 224 in your text).



Dollar and Miller have adapted many of Freuds concepts and integrated them into learning theory terms. Freuds unconscious processes were reconceived as unlabeled drives and cues. Freuds defense mechanisms and critical stages of development were also reconceived in terms of the learning process. The translation, though inexact, has helped to popularize Freud and stimulate experimental study of his ideas.



B. F. Skinner was born in 1904 in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. His father was an ambitious lawyer; his mother was bright and of high moral standards. His parents did not employ physical punishment, but their admonitions succeeded in teaching their son "to fear God, the police, and what people would think". His parents and grandparents to whom he was close, taught him to be faithful to work, to try and please God, and to look for evidence of Gods favor through "success". Later Skinner suggested that childhood reinforcements shaped his own adult behavior.

According to Skinner the term personality was superfluous and to try and define it was not necessary because overt behavior can be completely understood in terms of responses to factors in the environment.

Drawing from Thorndikes Law of effect, Skinner derived a very simple definition of reinforcement; A reinforcement is, anything that increases the likelihood of a response. If the response is satisfying, the likelihood of it reoccurring is great.


Skinner distinguished between two types of behavior: respondent and operant. Respondent behavior refers to reflexes or automatic responses that are elicited by a stimuli. Example (tapping the knee on the right spot makes the leg jerk forward. When our fingers tough hot metal, we reflexively pull our hand away. Such behaviors are learned: they occur involuntarily and automatically.Respondent behavior may, however, be conditioned or changed through learning as in Pavlovs demonstration of Classical Conditioning with a dog.Operant behavior is behavior is emitted without a stimulus necessarily being presented.

Skinner believed that the process of operant conditioning is of far greater significance than simple classical conditioning.

There is a clear distinction between respondent behavior and operant behavior.

In respondent behavior the response is evoked or elicited by a stimulus. In Operant behavior the response is freely emitted by the organism.


The nature of reinforcement also differs in these two conditions:In classical conditioning, the stimulus is the reinforcement and it precedes the behavior.

In operant conditioning, the effect of the behavior is the reinforcement. Thus, it follows the behavior.




A practical necessity led Skinner to explore the effect of different schedules and types of reinforcement. In the 1930s, commercially made food pellets were not available. It was difficult to make the eight hundred or more pellets per day necessary to carry out his experiments. Skinner wondered what the effect would be if the animals were not reinforced every time they performed. Consequently, He purposed three types of reinforcements

Continuous reinforcement: the desired behavior is reinforced each time that it occurs. A continuous schedule of reinforcement is extremely effective in initially developing and strengthening a behavior. However, if the reinforcement is stopped, the response quickly disappears or undergoes extinction. Interval reinforcement: the organism is reinforced after a certain time period has elapsed, regardless of the response rate. Interval reinforcement produces a level of response that is more difficulty to extinguish than responses that have been continuously reinforced. However, the level of responses tends to be lower than the level produced by other kinds of schedules.Ratio reinforcement = reinforcement is determined by the number of appropriate responses that the organism emits. Whereas continuous schedules of reinforcement is most effective for initially developing and strengthening a behavior, a variable ratio schedule is most effective thereafter in maintaining it. Responses maintained under the conditions of variable ratio reinforcement are highly resistant to extinction and less likely to disappear. (Gambling casinos use variable ratio schedules to keep many gamblers at the table long after the money allotted for gambling has disappeared).


Utilizing the "Skinner Box" (a piece of laboratory equipment created by Skinner and used to train animals) Skinner employed a procedure termed shaping in which he deliberately molded organisms behavior in order to achieve the desired behavior. (Does anyone remember the experiment with the pigeon and the white dot?)









Behavior modification seeks to eliminate undesirable behavior by changing the environment within which they occur. Skinners approach to behavior modification has been notably successful in areas where traditional insight therapy has failed or is inappropriate. His therapy technique utilizing behavior modification has been adopted and used by schools and industry alike.COMPARING SKINNER AND FREUD

The contrast between Freud and Skinner clearly emerges in their attitudes toward therapy. Freuds intent was primarily scholarly. He was uninterested in behavior change but sought to increase an individuals understanding of specific behavior.

On the other hand, Skinners interest was totally pragmatic and curative. He not only wanted to understand behavior, but also wanted to find a cure for maladjusted behavior. Some of Skinners most influential work include, The Behavior of Organisms, Walden II, and Beyond Freedom and Dignity.

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