This essay includes an overview study of four personality theorists. The works of B.F. Skinner, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, and Erik Erikson have all been explored to gain insight into the human psyche. The philosophies of these theorists have been compared and contrasted with one another to illuminate common trends and vast differences in the pedagogy and theory behind personality. Furthermore, I have offered a personal testimony as to my personality, the patterns and cycles associated with it, and my attempt to balance biological predispositions and an empowered drive to alter my personality.
To study personality is to study human kind. Behavior is forever changing and evolving within us, and therefore to study personality is to study human development. It is my goal with this essay to bring to light the essence of personality: how much control each of us has over our behavior and what happens when biologically inherent predispositions collide with empowered, actualized individuals. In doing this, I have studied those who have come before me. Burrhus Frederic Skinner, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, and Erik Erikson have all dedicated much of their professional lives towards deciphering how humans relate to their environment and to one another. Each of these men has devised theories of personalities and in turn, theories of human development. The theories based on each man’s own life lessons and personal tutelage, directly impacted their own counseling philosophy.
The first personality theorist I will examine is B.F. Skinner. B.F. Skinner labeled his view of human personality as behaviorism. He believed life circumstances and the environment have a direct impact on shaping an individual’s personality. In fact, he all but negated the specific idea of personality and focused directly on behavior. He thought of the two as one in the same. Skinner believed that the study of behavior would offer tremendous insight on all human relations. He notes “The major problems facing the world today can be solved only if we improve our understanding of human behavior” (Skinner, 1974, p. 8). Skinner didn’t think behavior was a human-specific experience, and because of this, he focused his earliest laboratory research on rats and pigeons. The behavior of animals was thought to be less complex than that of humans, and therefore considered to be foundational to all aspects of behavior. His earlier research included that which he later coined “The Skinner Box”, where he trained rats to act in a certain way through operant conditioning. Skinner separated his idea of behavior into two main groups: respondent behaviors and operant behaviors. A respondent behavior would be classified as behavior that is not learned, is automatic, and needs no training or conditioning. When a doctor taps the knee of a patient to test their reflexes, the patient’s knee jerks upwardly. This is similar to the couple coming out of a dark movie theater and squinting when entering the bright, sunny parking lot. These behaviors respond to specific external stimuli, but do not have any effect on the environment. An operant based behavior can be thought of as behavior that is both spontaneous and voluntary, and alters the environment. The behavior of the rats in Skinner’s experiments were trained using operant based behavior to complete an action (press down a bar), with the anticipation of receiving food at the end of the behavior (reinforcement). Skinner argued that personalities are simply a collection or pattern of operant behaviors, and operant behaviors are far more important than respondent based behaviors (Skinner, 1974). The strength and frequency of these operant behaviors are based on the reinforcement that follows the behavior. Skinner developed several types of reinforcements such as fixed interval, fixed ratio, variable interval and variable ratio....