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Behavioral Theory Of Personality: B.F. Skinner

1709 words - 7 pages

B.F. Skinner is a major contributor to the Behavioral Theory of personality, a theory that states that our learning is shaped by positive and negative reinforcement, punishment, modeling, and observation. An individual acts in a certain way, a.k.a. gives a response, and then something happens after the response. In order for an action to be repeated in the future, what happens after the response either encourages the response by offering a reward that brings pleasure or allows an escape from a negative situation. The former is known as positive reinforcement, the latter known as negative reinforcement (Sincero, 2012). A teenager who received money for getting an “A” is being positively ...view middle of the document...

Behaviorists also feel that are personality is established by these learned responses, which help individuals develop habits. These habits become so ingrained in people that individuals start to engage in them automatically, which leads to patterns of behavior that form one’s personality (Cicarelli & White, 2011). Some examples of habits include allowing others to take charge in a group situation, waiting until the last minute to write papers, and lighting up a cigarette when out at a bar.
Behaviorism is sometimes described by other theorists as being too focused with the external world and not enough on what an individual wants. In a sense, behaviorism regards people as more of robots, who just respond to whatever the environment throws at them. Under this theory, individuals do not have as much control of their own destiny, operating as just a by-product of whatever their environment presents. The needs, desires, wants, and the goals of person are not focused on as much as theories, such as Carl Roger’s or Abraham Maslow’s Humanism Theory, which gives more control to the individual.
However, Behaviorism cannot fully explain how individuals who have lived in horrendous environmental conditions, such as poverty, domestic violence, discrimination, and concentration camps have been able to show positive personality traits and accomplish great things, while still in the negative environment. Some great people who have changed history, such as Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, and Harvey Milk, had to deal with some difficult environmental situations and discrimination. Yet, they still managed to persevere and exhibit positive personality traits while entrenched in an oppressive environment. These people seemed to have the personality of trait of resilience that usually develops in tough and challenging environments and situations. Behaviorism seems to be in opposition with resilience, suggesting that one needs to be in a better environment, in order for their personality to reflect positive qualities. According to research by Robertson and Cooper (2013), resilience is developed and surfaces when individuals need to recover or bounce back from something, such as unemployment, death, a catastrophe, or an illness. This shows that one often develops the positive resilience when faced with an adverse or harsh environment.
While I do not completely agree with all parts of this theory, I feel that this view compliments my own personality as far as the development of habits are concerned. I feel that habits are shaped by our learned responses. Knowing how hard it is to break habits that have not served me well, such as eating junk food and not exercising as much as I should, I do believe that that these habits are automatic. During times of stress, I find myself reaching for a bag of chips without thinking. I have also driven to places on mental autopilot and then had to ask myself how I arrived there, my mind so focused on other things that my...

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