Behavioral Theory of Personality: B.F. Skinner

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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 reinforced, while an individual who skips a class presentation is being negatively reinforced by escaping from the intense fear and anxiety that would have occurred during the presentation. Anything that weakens a response is considered punishment. For example, a kid who writes on the wall in permanent magic market and then gets yelled out and put into time-out is being punished. During modeling and observation, an individual watches somebody perform a behavior and then repeats the behavior. Children learn in this way. For example, a 3-year old who has watched his mother answer the phone and then starts picks it up while it is ringing one day and says “hello” has learned by modeling and observation. In order for an individual to model somebody, they have to be paying attention, remember what they saw, and be motivated to repeat the behavior. Applying the tenets of this theory to personality, Skinner felt that our environment and society shapes who we are and the personality traits that we develop. Instead of changing our internal response... ... middle of paper ... ... the self-efficacy and self-esteem of certain individuals, leading to more satisfying and fulfilling life that is built on better personality traits, I feel that Social Learning Theory can be applied to many situations. Behaviorism and Social Learning Theory are two theories that have been used to describe the development of personality. While Behaviorism places a strong focus on how the environment shapes our personality, mainly through the process of negative and positive reinforcement, Social Cognitive Theory goes one step further by including how one’s thoughts and perceptions combine with behavior and environment to influence personality. Although there are some limitations in both theories, I feel that self-efficacy, self-esteem, and habits are valid parts of the two theories, playing a large role in how personality traits are established and expressed.

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