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Behaviorist Perspective – Personality (PSY)

by Tarry Ahuja, MD
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    00:01 Now, let’s take a look at the behaviorist perspective, and here, we’re kind of taking a completely different stance.

    00:08 So we’re saying that personality is a result of a learned behavior patterns based on one’s environment.

    00:13 And so that you’re actually shaping your personality based on your day-to-day interactions with your family, your friends, and over time, that’s what shapes your personality.

    00:24 So behaviorism is deterministic, so it’s determined on those interactions, environmentally reinforced and punished determine subsequent behavior.

    00:34 So we’ll break that down.

    00:36 The interactions will help determine new behavior and based on what interactions you have in that environment, that will determine your behavior.

    00:43 So if you’re doing things in your environment that are inappropriate, that you’re getting in trouble for, that will push you one way, so the punishment side.

    00:50 And then if you do things appropriately in a good way and you’re getting this positive reinforcement, you’ll then continue that behavior.

    00:57 So, this model of personality is really shaped around daily interactions over a period of time in your own specific environment that shapes your behavior and as a result shapes your personality.

    01:13 This process happens over a patient’s lifespan.

    01:17 So this isn’t something that happens over, you know, finite periods of time, kind of like that route line by Freud.

    01:22 This is something that is ongoing.

    01:24 And learning and development of personality occur through classic and operant conditioning.

    01:28 Now let’s revisit what those terms mean.

    01:30 So we’ve mentioned them in some other lectures, but just to refresh your memory.

    01:33 So classical and operant conditioning, it refers to being presented with different stimulus and getting an evoked response.

    01:40 So we have an unconditioned stimulus and we have a conditioned stimulus, and I refer you to or point you to the Pavlovian experiments or Pavlov’s dogs.

    01:50 So the dog was presented with a plate of food and would start to salivate.

    01:55 And then it was presented separately with a bell and the bell would chime and the dog would not respond because there’s no linkage there.

    02:04 But then we started to present the dog with food and ring the bell at the same time, and the dog conditions and associates the bell with food and it salivates.

    02:14 And then you can show that you’ve initiated a condition response by just ringing the bell in the absence of food and the dog will begin to salivate.

    02:22 You also have operant conditioning which is in the same family, but you use punishments and rewards to modulate somebody’s behavior.

    02:30 So I refer you to be of Skinner’s skinner box, where you have the rat inside the box and the rat was asked to do a different task, if done appropriately would pull a lever and it would get food, which is positive reinforcement, or if it did the task correctly, we’ll remove some negative punishment which is being on an electrically charged floor.

    02:55 Either way, you condition the animal to a certain behavior.

    02:59 So this behaviorist model is saying that learning and development of personality occur through this conditioning.

    03:07 This model also says that behavioral therapy uses conditioning to modify and influence behavior.

    03:13 So if you’re going in with certain personality traits or certain issues or if you’re trying to understand your behavior, you can use behavioral therapy to condition yourself.

    03:21 So say you suffer from anxiety.

    03:24 This model will say “Well, what is triggering your anxiety, what are the underlying drivers, and how are you acting?” And so you say, “Well, I get really anxious when this happens and I start working myself up and next thing you know I’m having a panic attack.” Well, the behavioral therapy will say, “Why don’t we work through different ways where you can modulate your behavior when you know that you are starting to experience that condition or that phenomenon?” So you start to feel anxiety coming on, I’m going to teach you some breathing exercises or I’m going to make you remove yourself from that situation by modifying your behavior, and this really is the premise behind cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.

    04:06 Okay. So next we have person-situation controversy or also known as trait versus state controversy, and this examines how much of a reaction is due to a personality trait or the situation state itself.

    04:18 So this is a very sort of complicated and convoluted scenario because it’s quite individual and it’s quite situational, meaning that it kind of depends on the individual and it kind of depends on the situation.

    04:32 So traits are considered to be internal and consistent, and states are situational.

    04:37 So your personality traits are consistent.

    04:41 They’re something that you have within and they don’t necessarily change a lot, but the states, the setting that you’re in, those can be quite different and they can vary and they can cause you to modify the expression of your traits.

    04:57 So personality traits may be relatively consistent, but the behavior in specific situations can be variable.

    05:02 So we have an example here.

    05:05 Say you’re a really extroverted person and you love chatting and you love socializing, especially when you’re around your friends, you’re always a center of the discussion, you’re always the life of the party.

    05:17 All of a sudden, you’re forced to go to a, you know, a wine and cheese mixer with people that you do not know, you’ve never met them, this isn’t really your forte, this isn’t your normal environment, you don’t know anybody there, how are you going to act? It’s probably rare that you would walk in and say, “Hey, everybody, I’m here! I know you’ve never met me, but I’m Tarry the fun guy.” That’s probably not going to happen, right? You’re probably going to go there and kind of slink in a little bit, check it out, see who’s here, have your glass of wine.

    05:45 And all of a sudden, you, the normal extrovert, have become quite introverted because you’re now assessing this new situation and so you’ve modified your behavior in order to accommodate the new situation.

    05:57 So you haven’t really changed your personality, but you’ve modified your personality based on the situation that you’re in.

    06:06 So, we’ve highlighted a whole bunch of different theories and approaches to looking at personality and I would say that there isn’t one that’s clearly the winner.

    06:14 I think there’s a combination of each of these theories and each has its strengths at addressing and explaining how we actually shape our personality.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Behaviorist Perspective – Personality (PSY) by Tarry Ahuja, MD is from the course Individual Influences on Behavior.


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Behaviorist perspective
    2. Mental perspective
    3. Cognitive behavioral therapy
    4. Observational perspective
    5. Environmental perspective
    1. State
    2. Personality
    3. Traits
    4. Environmental perspective
    5. Conditioning
    1. Personality
    2. Reflex
    3. Sleep-wake cycle
    4. Behaviorism
    5. Person-situation controversy
    1. Operant conditioning
    2. Classical conditioning
    3. Negative reinforcement
    4. Positive punishment
    5. Stimulus

    Author of lecture Behaviorist Perspective – Personality (PSY)

     Tarry Ahuja, MD

    Tarry Ahuja, MD


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