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Psychology of Personality
Psychology of Personality is a branch of Psychology that studies personal character and how it varies in different individuals due to psychology’s different forces. Different theories try to expound on Personality Psychology and how different factors affect our behavior and methods that can be used to condition personalities. These theories are; behaviorist theory, that studies how people adapt to patterns through the relation of things, or the outcome of their behavior; biological theory, which links personality to genetic and physiological factors; humanistic theory, which studies personality as individual uniqueness depending on a human, and evolutionary theory, which focuses on why a person behaves in a certain way rather than how the individual responds. In this article, I intend to focus on the behaviorist theory and how it applies to me.
LEVELS OF ANALYSIS OF BEHAVIORAL ANALYSIS
Behaviorist theory or behaviorism explains personal behavioral traits as a result of a stimulus. The stimulus can be certain external factors trigger responses(Leung et al. sr.345). For instance, the sound of a bell in school meant it was time for lunch, which made me feel a lot hungrier than I was initially. Another example is when a dog owner brings food to his dog, and the animal begins to drool after seeing the owner approach with food. Hence, behaviorism conditioned personalities by giving awards or consequences brought about by different courses of action. Therefore, behaviorism can be defined as conditioning that occurs when we interact with our surroundings, ultimately shaping our personalities.
Behaviourism brings to the table traits that can be developed through learning or conditioning. Learning to respond can be achieved by repeating a particular stimulus, which later becomes a character (Leung et al. 346). For example, in my case, before I get to cross the road, I have taught myself over time to look both ways twice before deciding whether it was safe for me to proceed, which after some time became an unintentional habit acquired through the learning experience. Also, I have been conditioned to always go to the bathroom before I go to bed, which was a behavior that my parents taught me to help stop me from bedwetting, which I became accustomed to even during adulthood.
CHARACTERISTICS OF BEHAVIORAL THEORY
Behaviourism has two basic conditioning principles. Two principles apply to behavioral conditioning: classical conditioning and operant conditioning(Leung et al.348). Classical conditioning is meant to use two different actions to trigger one response and the consequence of taking one action out of the equation. For instance, in a school scenario, the bell’s sound at 1 pm, and the smell of food coming from the kitchen meant that it was time for lunch, and students would begin to feel much hungrier. If one of these events, like the smell and providence of food, were taken away, the student would, over time, stop feeling hungry whenever the bell was rung due to the new behavioral conditioning to which they become accustomed.
Operant conditioning provides a different approach to behavioral conditioning. The principle implies that the frequency at which behavior is repeated is dictated by the action’s outcomes (Leung et al. 350). The principle further describes that behavior is likely to be repeated a lot of times if there is a reward but less likely to be repeated if there is a consequence. For example, as a child, doing a series of chores in the house earned me a treat from my parents, but staying out late at night earned me a punishment. Consequently, after many years of repeating the process, I became accustomed to doing chores and resented staying out late into the night, whether there is a consequence or not.
Moreover, operant conditioning has been commonly used in parenting to shape behavior in children. Hence, the operant condition is aimed at developing behaviors keeping in mind that actions have consequences. Moreover, operant conditioning can and has been used to eliminate unwanted behavior and encourage desired human behavior.
Behavioral psychology provides a counter-argument to operant conditioning. There might be instances when operant conditioning application might not be equally practical (Leung et al. 351). For instance, there might be an antisocial child in a school setting who does not engage in musical activities. Operant conditioning may be used to encourage the child. When the teacher tells the child that a reward will be given for participation, but the child does not even show up for the session, let alone participate, making little to no progress. Therefore, the teacher takes a different approach by offering a treat to the child every time he shows up for a lesson. Hence, from this point, the teacher can start working on the child’s social pessimism. The method described in this scenario is known as Shaping and is used in such instances.
Behavioral psychology has also provided for generalization and discrimination of the operant conditioning. Discrimination and generalization of the operant stimulus do not necessarily need to have a punishment effect for doing an operation, but rather, the reward is worth encouraging the counter behavior (Leung et al. 353). For example, every time I workout, I award myself with a delicious fruit salad cup to encourage myself to finish my workouts. Failing to workout will not earn me any form of punishment, but the reward itself is enough to motivate me to exercise. Hence in this context, operant conditioning has been used in a different way to encourage the behavior.
The development of behavior is a result of social interaction. The way we interact and respond to the environment contributes to our behavioral traits. How we treat the environment is just as effective as how the environment treats us to develop our personalities(Leung et al. 354 ). For instance, if I go to a social place and get treated several times wrongly, how I respond to the situation will develop how I act at other social gatherings. Also, I might feel the reluctance to attend another gathering. Also, how I treat another person will result in them having a confident behavioral attitude towards me. Therefore, behavior development is a trial and error process learned through consequences and socially acquired.
Both internal and external factors can influence behavior development. An attitude towards a person, object, and activity can be dictated by internal and external expectations(Leung et al. 357 ). For instance, if I were invited to a concert by someone I do not like, I would decline because of my attitude towards them, and feel like the concert will not be a fun experience in their presence. If the same person said that he would later buy me a label t-shirt after the concert, I would jump to the idea because of the promise. In this instance, the internal factor of me not liking the individual and the external factor of me wanting to get a free t-shirt made me change my behavior towards the idea of attending the concert. Also, determinism helps individuals weigh outcomes against their beliefs, expectations, and attitudes towards a subject. This behavior attribute is known as reciprocal determinism, and it claims that behavioral responses use both internal and external factors.
The social-cognitive theory claims that humans do not act randomly or on impulse. The theory says that human beings use reasoning, imagination, and calculation to behave(Leung et al. 356). For instance, if I want to go to a party, I do not just get up and go but engage myself critically before deciding whether or not to attend the event. Some of the questions I would ask myself would be; whose party it is, what kind of crowd will be present, how I would get there, and what time I would get back home. After considering all these factors, only then would I decide whether to commute to the party. Hence, deciding whether or not to attend the party has not been influenced by any external or external factors but has taken a great deal of comprehension to make a decision. Therefore, it is apparent that behavior development is much more than an impulsive response.
Behavior is influenced by self-regulation and self-imposed goals. When deciding to engage in a specific activity, a person would set some goals even if they know that they will not get a reward in return(Leung et al. 358). For instance, I would push myself to join a marathon event organized by a blood donation foundation, not to come in the first place but to have a sense of accomplishment for participation and satisfaction for completing the racecourse. Also, I would set a goal to improve my public school grade, not get an award afterward, but to reach a self-imposed goal. Therefore, some behaviors are encouraged by specific goals that are self-imposed.
Behavioral traits can be acquired through learning and observation. It is unnecessary to learn how to behave through trial, error, and punishment, but one can use observation to learn about the repercussions of specific behavior (Leung et al. 358). For instance, while getting a driver’s education, a student cannot just go on the road and break all the rules to know the do’s and don’ts of road safety but rather observe how other people behave while on the road reciprocates the same while sitting behind the wheel. Therefore, some behaviors cannot just be learned through prior actions, but rather by making keen observations, which contradicts the traditional behaviorists who claim that one has to engage in the activity to learn an individual behavior. Also, a person doesn’t need to encounter a specific scenario to learn a behavior. An example can be handling a gun, where I have observed that using them is a dangerous affair. I learned this trait not by handling the weapon myself but by watching on television and seeing the damage it can do.
APPLICATION OF BEHAVIORAL THEORY
The behavioral approach also tries to explain some of the psychological disorders. Behaviorists try to links the psychological complications to past events that cultured the condition (Leung et al. 361). Some of these behavioral abnormalities may have been a result of conditions made during infancy. For example, as a child, I was naturally afraid of light flashes, and whenever we took a family photo, the camera flash irked me, and I would cry uncontrollably; therefore, I was not too fond of the camera because of the flash, and even if the camera did not have the flash, it still made me uneasy, and to this day I am photophobic. Therefore, the fear of light flashes transformed into the fear of cameras. Hence, some psychological disorders begin at a tender age and can be transformed into other disorders.
Conditional principles may fester into phobias. Some of the phobias we have as adults are linked to past experiences as children (Leung et al. 364). For instance, a child who fell from a slide begins to fear to go down the slide again, and the fear gradually turns into the phobia of heights that will scar the child up until adulthood. Phobia is a psychological disorder treated by the same principles; only that conditioning will now be done to treat the phobia. Therefore, classical and operational conditions are used to treat psychological disorders.
Classical conditioning can be applied to treat psychological disorders. A person who has a phobia can be conditioned to alleviate the disorder (Leung et al. 363). Treatment is achieved by introducing conditions that counter the effects causing the phobia. For instance, if I suffer from a height phobia, the practitioner can use simple steps to treat the phobia, by first introducing a short footstool for me to step on then gradually increase the height into a long ladder and after doing this severally, I become used to the height, and my phobia gets cured. Therefore, classical conditioning aims to create simple arousals and gradually turn them into intense conditions, which are adapted to after several trials.
Operational conditioning is applied to treat psychological disorders. Operational conditioning is used to discourage bad behavior by introducing punishments or encourage positive behavior by giving rewards. The conditioning has been mainly used to treat children who often behave undesirably. Initially, the specialist tries to find out what causes the tantrums and how often they occur. Then, the child’s parents are advised on what actions to take, by rewarding good behavior by the child and form of punishment that will be effective if the child acts up again (Leung et al. 361). Therefore, by introducing rewards and punishment, the child learns that good behavior gets awarded, and lousy behavior earns punishment; hence, the desired behavioral traits are obtained after some time. Moreover, if no progress is made, the parents and the psychiatrist go back to the drawing board to develop new strategies. Conclusively, operational conditioning is applied to rectify behavior and develop desired ones.
The theory has been applied in helping people beat addictions. Addiction is usually a psychological state in which a person cannot go long without doing an action or abusing a substance. Therefore, the behavioral theory has been used to treat these conditions by altering behaviors that lead to addiction. The theory also creates a sense of confidence that the addicted individual takes, which will help them come out of the addiction (Leung et al. 369). Moreover, it makes addicts self-reliant in how they will help themselves beat addiction by conditioning their minds.
The behavioral analysis theory is applied while making direct observations on patients’ behavior. The best way to begin solving psychological disorders is by directly observing the patient in a real-life setting to get the gist of how the disorder affects them socially (Leung et al. 369). Also, the observations made will help the specialist know-how to diagnose the condition and address it. For instance, if a doctor wishes to help a socially challenged child, the doctor may observe the child they play with other children and point out the challenges that the child faces. Therefore, after making conclusions, the doctors will advise the parents on approaching the problem (Leung et al. 369). Further, if it is not possible for the doctor to be present during some scenarios, the doctor creates stimulations and observes how the patient will react. Therefore, behavioral analysis plays a crucial role in solving psychiatric challenges.
Behaviorism is used to solve relationship challenges. When psychiatrists are solving relationship challenges between two people, they apply the behaviorist approach. Counselors stimulate situations that cause conflict between two people, and after seeing the reaction, they start to solve the challenge. Also, behaviorism has been used to help people who have trouble asserting themselves by creating scenarios that would cause conflict and see how they behave (Leung et al. 368). Therefore, behaviorism helps the psychiatrist condition the unassertive patient to help them become more confident when presented with challenges.
In conclusion, behavioral analysis is vital while trying to understand why people behave the way they do. It also helps specialists know how they would treat patients who have trouble creating a socially productive life. Further, behaviorism can help people get rid of undesired characters in people by conditioning them to become better. Therefore, behavioral analysis is the best theory to use while trying to understand personalities.
Leung, Hildie, and YW Esther Shek. “Behavioral, Cognitive–Behavioral, and Social Learning Approaches.” The Encyclopedia of Child and Adolescent Development (2019): 1-12.
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