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Importance of understanding personality in psychology

Importance of understanding personality in psychology

In the field of psychology it is most important to understand the personality of an individual. Personality helps sum up the values, actions, perceptions and behaviour, these can differ from person to person. There are a number of theories that are being used to understand people and have been around for many years, the five Psychological concepts used are Behaviourist, Humanistic, Cognitive, Psychodynamic and the Biological psychology. This assignment will cover two of the five approaches; they are the Behaviourist and Humanistic approach.

Behaviourists primarily focus on people’s observable behaviour, experiences and their learning process to understand individuals. According to behaviourists ones behaviour does not depend on what goes on inside the mind and also believe if asked about their feelings it is very likely they could be providing misleading information. They also trust that behaviour is learnt either by imitation of others or repeating behaviour that has brought an award or a punishment; peoples interaction with the environment. Operant and Classical conditioning is two theories within the behaviourist theory.

Operant conditioning according B.F Skinner (1936) is a learning method that arises through rewarding or punishing one for their behaviour.

Classical conditioning which was discovered by Ivan Pavlov (1903) is said to be a learning procedure that is raised by a natural stimulus and an environmental stimulus.

Watson and Rayner (1920) did a controlled experiment and recorded on videotapes. Watson wanted to take Pavlov’s research from animals and test it on humans. This experiment was called ‘Little Albert’. Albert was 9 months old when he was tested for reactions towards various stimuli’s that were presented to him. Albert was shown white rat, a rabbit, a dog, a monkey, with masks, cotton wool, and burning newspapers. It was said he showed no fear towards the three animals. What Albert did respond negatively to was the loud noise that came from the hammer being struck against a steel bar, Albert cried when he heard it.

When Albert was a little over 11months he was tested again in another controlled experiment, he was presented with a white rat and the steel bar was stuck by a hammer, this experiment was carried out 7 times over 7 weeks. When Albert was presented with a white rat, he would burst into tears not only that but Albert only had to see the white rat and he would show every sign of fear towards the white rat. Albert grew to fear the white rat, he also grew a fear for all fury things and the hammer was no longer needed to get Albert crying. (Watson, John B. & Rayner, Rosalie. (1920). Conditioned emotional reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1-14).

This classically conditioned experiment was a great success as it proved to be right.

Some may agree believe that the behaviourist approach is more accurate than the Humanistic approach as it is considered scientific, and there is data that is collected by the researchers that prove to be a success. This approach being classed as scientific tells us that many experiments have been carried out to prove the accuracy of the approach and it has a backbone and isn’t just assumptions of what might be going on in the mind and how if influences our everyday behaviour.

Pavlov showed existence of the behaviourist approach when he by accidently discovered that the dog produced more saliva when he saw the lab assistant because he had learnt to associate the lab assistant with food.

Watson approved of Pavlov’s observations and wanted to connect it to human psychology and did so by performing the ‘Little Albert’ experiment (1920). This experiment being done successfully, may be classed as double confirmation to some as they may believe that human and animals are alike in some sense because they adapt to their environment and learn to behave according to that environment.

The behaviourist theory could be classed as biased. For example Watson and Pavlov conducted their experiment in laboratory conditions which means the Independent variable (IV) was controlled and manipulated by the experimenter to measure the dependent variable (DV). The dependent variable may be accurately measured but its sense of realism has been taken away and very little free will is left.

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Humanistic psychology could also be referred to as the ‘third force’ in psychology, its theories that conflict the Behaviourist theories. The humanistic perspectives are more concerned and are interested in how people’s behaviours can be influenced by a person’s emotions and thoughts. How one feels and how others see an individual is what they believe shapes people’s behaviour, interested in what goes on internally rather than the external factors. Humanistic approach believes that personality is what shapes human behaviour and comparing it to animals is dehumanising as each individual is unique and does not go by animalistic urges. Each social interaction helps develop one’s personality.

Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow are the main theorists who portray the Humanistic approach.

Carl Rogers (1959) has claimed that the meaning of behaviour basically, is personal. One needs to feel appreciated and accepted by their environment and not only that but needs to be surround by people who they can talk to and would listen and understand them, he believed that if people aren’t surrounded by these social factors then relationships and healthy personalities will not develop. Satisfying yourself by achieving your personal goals, personal wishes and personal desires in life is where ‘self-actualization’ takes place. He believes that a person can only do this when their ideal self and self imagine is congruent; the humanistic term for this is ‘a fully functioning person’.

Abraham Maslow (1970) created a Hierarchy of needs pyramid which starts off with one needing to satisfy the lower needs before being able to achieve ‘self actualization’. The pyramid starts off with the basic needs such as physiological needs, safety needs, love and belongingness, Esteem needs, then goes on to the growth needs such as cognitive needs, aesthetic needs. Once these needs are seen to a person is able to realise the full potential and become everyone one can become.

Behaviourist and humanist approach both recognise that humans nature to respond to whatever the situation whether it is internally or externally. Another similarity with the two approaches is they both take note of other individuals and one’s experience and relation with them.

They have more difference than similarities On one hand the Behaviourist approach does not see people’s ability to think but believe they have the ability to react, just like an animal. On the other hand, for the humanistic, people’s behaviour is believed to relay on being able to fulfil their needs and responsibilities, development of one’s self and their self awareness.

The behaviourists believe what shapes behaviour is one’s response to natural stimuli’s and behaviour can be reshaped using Operant and Classical conditioning. As for the Humanistic beliefs one’s behaviour is developed by their social interactions (Family, friends, environment and etc…)

Humanistic see an individual as unique, every person is unique and have their internal reasons for the behaviour,



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