PSY 2130 November 14, 2012
1. Central Position of Behavioral Perspectives on Personality
Humans have the longest period biologists called “neoteny”, which is the time
with which babies are dependent on their parents. During this period, parents invest a
great deal of effort in socializing our young, and as a discipline, psychology has invested
an incredible amount of research in sorting out this process.
Psychology as a discipline is in some way or another, concerned with learning.
Experience in A can affect experiences later down the road in B. cognitive psychologist
are interested in memory, and thought processes that are involved in peoples ability to
learn. All personality psychologists begin studying personality by looking at behavior.
The emphasis has not been on the behaviors themselves, but looking at these
behaviors an interpreting them as something we cannot see. For example, listening to
people free associate (behavior), and analyzing the contents (unconscious processes).
Trait psychologists study responses on a questionnaire, but aren‟t interested in the
behavior of filling out the questionnaire. More so the responses, which illuminate traits.
In contrast the Freudian and Trait strategy, the behavioral and learning strategy in
interested in behavior for its own sake. They observe for the sake of taking sample, not
for the sake of illuminating inner processes. These are samples of larger behaviors. For
example, seeing someone volunteer at the hospital, can be taken as a sample of altruistic
behavior and use this to predict their behavior.
“The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior”. –B.F Skinner
Covert behavior and Overt behavior. Theorists always start with the overt
behaviors. Inferences and statements are made on the basis of overt behaviors about
covert behaviors. In this sense, personality psychologists begin by examining behavior
directly. Personality to the behaviorists is nothing more than learned tendencies that have
been acquired during earlier experiences. Personality is nothing more than the residue of
experience. The basic premises here, is one that speaks to the preeminence of behavior.
For the behaviorists, all thoughts feelings and behaviors are learned tendencies.
The main assumption is that behavior is lawful. It follows law and is purely the product
of forces outside of the individual and can be understood at the objective level. You don‟t
look inside the person, but look at the person‟s environment.
Sechenov argued “all associations between events and ideas can best be
understood in terms of reflexes and their neurological bases. It was Ivan Pavlov that first
demonstrated that a reflex could become associated with a new stimulus, which came to
be known as classical conditioning.
2. General Characteristics of Behavioral/Learning Theories of Personality
Parsimonious means simple. We tend to favor the simplest model.
B. Minimal Use of Theoretical Constructs
They typically avoid explanations that involve processes that are inside the
person. For example, a patient having trouble speaking in their first session. Freudians
would say they are showing resistance and are not ready to talk about the subject. The behaviorists would say the patient was just nervous because they haven‟t faced this sort
of situation before. They would probably only write that the person didn‟t say much.
Skinner was never fond of being called a „theorist‟. By calling him a behavioral
theorist, we are putting him in a role. Skinner gave us an alternative framework for
explaining behaviors that other people thought of as distinctive to a person‟s personality.
C. Minimal Use of Inferences
D. Assessment: direct, observational, and present-oriented
This was a treatment for smokers. Smoking diary records time of day, place, and
what happened before you light one up. Connections are made between outside things
and smoking behavior.
3. Classical Conditioning
The conditions that Pavlov condition were reflexive. Reflexes are unlearned
responses to a specific stimulus. Not subject to voluntary control. The reflex is called the
unconditioned response and the reflex that solicits this is the unconditioned stimulus.
For example, neutral stimulus (bell) followed by unconditioned stimulus (meat)
automatically elicits unconditioned response (saliva). After repetitions, conditioned
stimulus (bell) resulted in conditioned response (salivation). The acquisition and retention
of relationship, depends on two important things. The neutral stimulus and the
unconditioned stimulus have to occur close together in time. There has to be temporal
contiguity. Repetition is also needed.
The unconditioned response is not identical to the conditioned response. One very
important difference is the conditioned response takes longer to elicit. The conditioned
response is also weaker than the unconditioned response. If we measured the volume of
drool, less saliva occurs in the conditioned response. Finally, the conditions response is
not as predictable as the unconditioned response. It is not a reflex, and may not happen in
* Overview of principles
*Temporal contiguity and repetition
* Stimulus generalization and stimulus discrimination
Once you have gotten a conditioned response, the same response can be elicited