Chapter 6: Behaviourist and Learning Aspects of Personality Flashcards Preview

🎭 PSY230H1F: Personality and Its Transformations (2016) with D. Dolderman > Chapter 6: Behaviourist and Learning Aspects of Personality > Flashcards

Flashcards in Chapter 6: Behaviourist and Learning Aspects of Personality Deck (31)
Loading flashcards...

What is:

classical conditioning

6.1.1 Conditioning a Response to a Stimulus

Discovered by Ivan Pavlov, who paired food (unconditioned stimulus), which causes salivation in dogs (unconditioned response), with a bell (neutral stimulus). After the food and bell were presented together a number of times, eventually just the sound of the bell elicited salivation, i.e. the conditioned stimulus produced a conditioned response.


What are generalization and discrimination?

6.1.1 Conditioning a Response to a Stimulus

  • generalization: A conditioned response will occur in response to stimuli that are similar to the conditioned stimulus.
    • e.g. If a young boy who is stung by bees and bitten by mosquitoes might become fearful of the buzzing of all insects.
  • discrimination: The conditioned response will not occur for all possible similar stimuli, indicating that an animal can learn to tell the difference between different stimuli.
    • e.g. If food followed a bell of only one tone and didn't follow the bell of another, the dog would discriminate this one tone, and the conditioned response would only happen for that particular tone.


How is an explanation of personality using classical conditioning different from that of a biologicalpsychoanalytic, or neoanalytic explanation? Use the example of phobias.

6.1.2 Behavioural Patterns as a Result of Conditioning

Using the conditioning explanation of someone who has a phobia of snakes, we would conjecture that the individual was taken to the zoo by her grandma when she was 5, and the grandma exhibited a great deal of anxiety in the child's presence when they approached the snakes. Since the grandma is only acting fearful around the snakes, the child would discriminate this stimulus and learn to be fearful. The child may develop a "personality" that fears situations involving snakes or other reptiles.

This explanation of a phobia is different from a biological explanation that relies on an evolved innate fear of snakes, a psychoanalytic explanation that sees snakes as symbolic of a threatening penis, or a neoanalytic explanation in which fear of snakes is part of our collective unconscious.


What is:


6.1.3 Extinction Processes

When the conditioned response becomes less frequent over time until it disappears, because the association between the conditioned and unconditioned stimulus stops. In other words, "personality" (pattern of response) changes.

  • e.g. If a rape victim who is fearful of going to parties or malls can repeatedly experience these events in the calm presence of a supportive friend, she will be able to undergo a positive personality change.
  • However, most of the time people who have a fear of certain things will avoid them, thus not allowing the fear to disappear.


How can behaviourism explain complex personality dimensions, such as neuroticism?

6.1.4 Conditioning of Neurotic Behaviour

Neuroticism may be a conditioned response fostered by an environment that requires the individual to discriminate between events under conditions in which that judgement is almost impossible.

  • e.g. Some children find it impossible to predict the reactions of their unstable parents. If they're never sure whether to expect praise or punishment, they may feel frustrated, anxious, and depressed.
  • Pavlov discovered this when he presented food with a circle, but not with an ellipse to a dog, which caused discrimination. Pavloc then increased the roundness of the ellipse until it approximated the circle so that the dog could no longer discriminate, at which point the dog began showing neurotic behaviours.


Why is classical conditioning not as simple as Pavlov had imagined?

6.1.5 Complexities in Application of Conditioning Principles

  • Certain organisms respond differently to certain stimuli. For example, dogs can be made to salivate with food, but humans rely more heavily on visual stimuli.
  • Much of our learned patterns of responses comes by experiencing or anticipating the consequences (effects) of our actions.


Why did John B. Watson reject introspectionism and psychoanalysis?

6.2.1 The Rejection of Introspection

Watson wanted to develop a rigorous science that didn't rely on thoughts and feelings elicited through introspection, as these are unobservable and unscientific. Accordingly, he also rejected psychoanalysis, which looked at the unconscious. He much preferred behaviourism and working with animals, which he could observe.


What is:

systematic desensitization

6.2.2 Conditioned Fear and Systematic Desensitization

Watson and Rayner demonstrated how you could become desensitized to your phobias with a little boy named Peter. Peter was afraid of furry things such as rabbits. In several experiments, Peter played with other children in the presence of a rabbit. Gradually, the rabbit was moved closer and closer to Peter while keeping him happy, until he became desensitized ot the rabbit.

  • This technique is now commonly used as a phobia treatment in therapy.
  • VR technology has been especially useful at reducing costs, but also because people are more willing to do it if they know they won't have to actually face their fear.


What are the two underlying assumptions that Watson made about behaviourism?

6.2.2 Conditioned Fear and Systematic Desensitization

  1. That the cause of the problem is irrelevant, and the behaviour itself is the issue. Merely apply the training tools to change the behaviour, and the problem will be solved.
  2. That the environment is key to understanding a person. Accordingly, if children are raised in a particular environment, they will grow up to be exactly what you want them to be because their personalities are a function of the environment.


What did B.F. Skinner set out to accomplish with his ideas?

6.3 The Radical Behaviourism of B.F. Skinner

Skinner was motivated by the ideas of people like Pavlov, Watson, and Thorndike, who argued that the consequences (effect) of a behaviour will either strengthen or weaken it. Skinner concluded that environment controls behaviour; environmental elements, particularly the consequences of behaviour, are responsible for most behaviour. As such, one must uncover the environmental conditions surrounding any behaviour in order to understand it. He endeavoured to explain behaviour without having to refer to physiology or personality constructs.


What is:

operant conditioning

6.3.1 Operant Conditioning as an Alternative Description of Personality

When behaviour is changed by its consequences. To do this, Skinner manipulated the environment by shaping successive approximations to do the desired behaviour. This theory emphasizes the study of observable behaviour, environmental conditions, and the process by which environmental events and circumstances determine behaviour; it places emphasis on the function of behaviour over the structure of personality.


What are the assumptions and implications of Skinner's behaviourism?

6.3.1 Operant Conditioning as an Alternative Description of Personality

  • It's a deterministic theory, in which there's no free will.
  • There is also no "personality" or room for psychical structures (i.e. id, ego, and superego), traits, self-actualization, needs, or instincts. Skinner argued that most behaviour of a person or other organism is conditioned by rewards and punishments, and that these operant behaviours taken together may be what we call personality.
  • He took an idiographic approach, and emphasized the individuality of environmental conditions and stressed that we must apply the principles of learning to each organism individually.
  • He believed that the universal laws of behaviour acquisition, resulting in what we know as personality, operate in the same manner in humans and nonhuman animals (but more simply in nonhumans).


What is the:

Skinner box

6.3.2 Controlling the Reinforcement

In this enclosure, termed the experimental chamber or operant chamber, the animal (or child) was segregated from all irrelevant environmental influences, expect those under the control of the experimenter. For animals, the box contained either a lever or a key that either released food when triggered (providing positive reinforcement)  or stopped the administration of an aversive stimulus like a shock (providing negative reinforcement).


What is Walden Two?

6.3.3 Skinner's Behaviourist Utopia

In his novel Walden Two (1948), Skinner describes a utopian community that is behaviourally engineered based on principles of operant conditioning. A benevolent government rewards (reinforces) positive, socially appropriate behaviour. Walden Two is problem-free because only positive reinforcement is used; people always behave reliably and responsibly, and they're very competent. There's no issue of freedom because Skinner believes free will is only an illusion. He believed that all behaviour is determined anyways, and thus a desirable utopian community is one in which the environment is controleld rather than unstructured.


What is Skinner's approach to maladaptive behaviours?

6.3.3 Skinner's Behaviourist Utopia

According to Skinner, psychopathology is learned in the same manner as all other behaviours: reinforcement. People have either not learned the appropriate responses or have learned the "wrong" response. Some individuals may have been punished for adaptive behaviours. Thus, the treatment for "mental illness" is to set up environmental contingencies that reward desirable behaviour. To Skinner, a neurotic is someone who's been reinforced for overly emotional behaviour.


How did Skinner reinterpret the explanations of psychoanalysis?

6.4 Applying Behaviourism


How did Skinner apply biology to behaviourism in order to explain personality differences?

6.4 Applying Behaviourism

If personality is merely learned behaviour, then it can presumable be unlearned using the same conditioning processes by which it was first learned. Behaviourists add to this by claiming that the process can be done systematically according to scientific laws that they propose about contingencies. Skinner said that the role of biological factors was to define an organism's range of responses and the organism's ability to have its behaviour strengthened by environmental events. He emphasized that the environment is of primary importance even in hereditary characteristics because the environment selects behaviours that encourage procreation and survival. But ascribing any behavour to "instinct" is incorrect because it ignores the role of environmental circumstances.


How did Skinner explain thoughts and emotions?

6.4.1 Internal Processes, External Causation, and Free Will

Thoughts and emotions do occur, according to Skinner, but they don't cause behaviour. Internal events are, as are all characteristics of the organism, caused by environmental events. The environmental factors are what can be measured and studied scientifically. Thus, according to Skinner, any organism has a personality, as one doesn't need thoughts and emotions.

  • So, rather than asking if someone feels tired or how tired they are, look to the environment—when they last slept, how much they slept, etc.


What was Clark Hull's organized theory of learning?

6.5.1 The Role of Internal Drives

Hull emphazied emphasized an organized theory of learning and the nature of habits, which were, according to Hull, simply associations between a stimulus and a response. The organism (usually a white rat for Hull) makes responses that lead to a goal that alleviates a drive. These responses in themselves become stimuli for further responses and intervene between the stimulus and the response. Although Hull emphasized the reinforcements provided by the environment, he still focussed his attention on the internal state of the organism during learning.

  • For example, the rat must learn to make a variety of moves to get through the maze before it can reach the food and reduce its hunger drive.
  • As applied to humans, this explains how a goal such as becoming rich can be learned. We learn that money and success can lead to drive reduction (such as allowing us access to good food). 


What is:

social learning theory

6.5.2 Social Learning Theory: Dollard and Miller

This theory proposes that our likelihood of responding in certain ways (habits) are built up in terms of a hierarchy of secondary (or acquired) drives. For example, if you were mugged in a dark alley, you would probably learn to avoid such situations and also feel anxiety in similar situations. This learned anxiety is now an acquired drive that can motivate new behaviour. You could be reinforced when this drive is reduced, such as always walking at night with a confident companion. This companion won't protect you from getting mugged in the alley, but it will build a new hierarchy of responses from the learning and reducing of new drives.


What is a:

habit hierarchy

6.5.2 Habit Hierarchies

A learned hierarchy of likelihoods that a person will produce particular responses in particular situations. The individuals experiences result in learning what the likelihood is that a specific response in a particular situation results in a reward. The behaviour you're most likely to do is at the top of the hierarchy. Social learning theories see this personal ranking as responsible for individual differences that we often term personality. Many of the important reinforcers that determine a person's habit hierarchy are social in nature, coming from people in the social environment.


What is a:

secondary drive

6.5.2 Habit Hierarchies

This concept attempts to describe how the adult human personality can be conditioned from the infant stage, when the child is just a bundle of undifferentiated primary physiological drives. Complex adult traits include motivations like love and power and personality constructs like extroversion.

  • For example, if the active orientation toward others (i.e. extroversion) brings milk or clearn diapers from the parent, a drive towards these behaviours will be learned as the child develops.
  • This can be used to explain why some people are more individualistic, such as in the US where individiual activity is rewarded, and some are more group-oriented, such as in Japan where children are socialized with social rewards.


How did Harry Harlow demonstrate the theory of secondary drives with his rhesus monkey experiment?

6.5.2 Habit Hierarchies

In this experiment, infant monkeys were separated from their mothers, and some of the infants were fed by feeding bottles attached to a bare wire cylinder. He demonstrated that infant monkeys didn't develop a secondary drive of attachment to the wire surrogates; they preferred the soft, terry cloth-covered surrogates (even nonfeeding ones). This suggested that children need more than their primary drives satisfied, and it's difficult to only account for the social needs and tendencies of a child using only primary drives.


How did Dollard and Miller reinterpret Freud's psychoanalysis?

6.5.2 Habit Hierarchies

Dollard and Miller agreed with Freud that there are crucial periods in a child's personality development, but they changed the explanations to ones involving learning, through rewards and punishments. For example, they named critical times during development (e.g. feeding, potty training, control of sexual urges) when the reinforcement contingencies provided by the parents are particularly relevant. If the hungry child isn't fed, they may develop anxiety or passitvity rather than sociability and love. If a child is punished for toilet accidents, they may learn to avoid their parents to reduce anxiety. If a child is punished for masturbating, they may associated anxiety with all aspects of sexuality.


How did Dollard and Miller attempt to explain the development of mental illnesses with social learning theory?

6.5.4 Drive Conflict

They hypothesized that internal conflicts result in behaviours (symptoms) of neurosis and disorders. For example, children have (primary) sexual drives but sometimes may be punished for acting on them.

  • If the punishment results in the conditioning of a fear response to this drive, the primary and secondary drives collide in an approach-avoidance conflict. The individual is both drawn to and away from the sexual object, resulting in neurotic behaviour.
  • There can be an approach-approach conflict, in which the person is drawn to two equally attractive choices.
  • Avoidance-avoidance conflict is when the individual is repulsed by two equally undesirable choices. Thus, the individual doesn't know which drive to reduce first, resulting in neurotic behaviour.


What is:

contingency management

6.5.4 Drive Conflict

Modifying the rewards people get for their behaviours.

  • For example, in a group of drug addicts, half were given the opportunity to recieve pay for remaining drug-free while the other half weren't. The group that was rewarded for their abstinance behaviours was twice as likely to test negative for opiates or cocaine in their urine.


How do Dollard and Miller tie social learning theory to aggression?

6.5.4 Drive Conflict

The frustration-aggression hypothesis posits that frustration coming from the environment may lead to aggression against a different target. Aggression can be learned; it can also be unlearned or prevented.

  • This is similar to Freud's idea of displacement, but Dollard and Miller emphasize the importance of environment and the ways one has learned to satisfy basic drives.
  • Social learning theory endeavours to integrate key ideas from other theories, but all within a learning framework.


What did Sears find in his studies of aggressiveness in children and child rearing practices?

6.5.5 Patterns of Child-Rearing and Personality

Sears described personality as "potentialities for action" that included motivation, expectations, habit structure, the nature of the instigators to behaviour, and the environmental events produced by that behaviour. Sears monitored childhood aggression through teachers' ratings, behavioural observation, and doll play, and child-rearing practices through reports from the mothers. He found that the amount a parent reported punishing the child for dependency was highly related to both dependency and aggression in the child.


What is the main conflict to the behaviourist approach, and how have modern approaches attempted to reconcile this?

6.5.6 Modern Behaviourist Personality Approaches

Behaviourism deals only in externally observable entities and is thus limited in its ability to address the essence of personality, which is complex and internal.

  • In recent years, there's been an interesting return to the Pavlovian approach. In this view, characteristics of the nervous system differ systematically between individuals, producing individual differences in personality. This approach, sometimes termed reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST) posits that underlying biobehavioural systems influence individual responsivity to both reward and punishent.
  • The BIS and BAS moderate the effects of reward and punishment and have clear correlations with reliably measured personality traits.
  • The act frequency approach looks at the frequency with which a person performs certain observable acts. This approach records and counts behaviours that are typical of a given trait category. For  example, a conscientious person should complete work on time and refuse impulsive dares. The patterns of act frequences can be examined for evidence that the traits measured by conventional instruments manifest themselves in observable behaviour, within and across cultural contexts.


How have behaviourist and learning approaches to personality influenced the field of psychology?

6.6 Evaluation

  • They've forced the field of personality to be much more experimental in its research and rigorous in its concepts.
  • Notions of conditioning, reward, and extinction now pervade psychology, including personality and clinical psychology.
  • This approach provides an empirically well-supported explanation of why behaviour is not as consistent across situations as many other personality theories might imply. The situation itself could be considered part of personality.