Behavioral Theory Influence on Personality

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Behavioral Theory Influence on Personality

There are a number of theories which have attempted to explain human behavior and its impact on social as well as work life. These theories have tried to explain how human behavior shapes a person’s personality. One of the important theories is the Behavioral Theory or Behaviorism. This theory depends on the premise that all kinds of human behaviors are basically acquired via conditioning. The behavioral theories originated in the first part of the 20th century and were promoted by eminent psychologists like John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner. These behavioral techniques are in use even today to facilitate the learning process of individuals and learn new behavior in various circumstances. (“Major Theories of Human Behavior”, n. d.) This theory, put forward by Watson, was a departure from other prevailing theories of the time and advocated the exclusion of introspection and consciousness and laid more stress on determinism than on freewill. Watson’s theory also came to known as “stimulation-response theory”. Benjamin Skinner was Watson’s protégé who advanced his theories with the help of further research. According to behaviorists, the results of past experiences conditions human behavior and ultimately shape his future behavior. These past experiences may be categorized into “unconditioned stimuli” and “conditioned stimuli”. Ivan Pavlov’s famous experiments using a dog justified this theory. The behavioral theories, including the stimulus/response theory in particular, have significant relevance in many organizations today. Many human resource activities use this technique to modify employee behavior. For instance, one particular company trains drivers to be vigilant while backing by using verbal caution by a trainer as well as a warning buzzer. After several verbal warnings during each backing activity, the trainee driver becomes so conditioned to be alert that he responds to the buzzer even when the trainer is absent. According to the behavioral theories, employee performance can also be conditioned or modified through reactions to past behavior. For instance, an employee’s punctuality may depend upon the counseling provided by his superior or by watching other workers being counseled for not coming to work on time. Again, if an employee is praised for being punctual, this behavior gets positively reinforced resulting in a repetition of such behavior. (Sommers-Flanagan; Sommers-Flanagan, 2004); (Myers, 2004) Skinner advocated a “radical behaviorism”, which he believed had the potential to change society. According to this theory, reinforcement principles could be employed to working practices in human institutions to bring about positive changes in society. As per this theory, environmental events taking place in society, the reactions of individuals to these events, and the outcomes of such behavior can be scientifically observed and studied. According to Watson, Skinner and other behaviorists, consciousness is something that can not and should not be studied. (Leonard, 2002) Behaviorists like Skinner have stressed that behaviorism can be used to create a perfect society where social engineers can use behaviorist techniques to mould the environment in such a way that all evil can be eliminated and harmonious social relations and personal happiness can be achieved. (Colarelli, 2003) One of the basic elements of Skinner’s behavioral theory is operant conditioning. An individual or organism gets a reinforcing stimulus or reinforcer while it is operating. This reinforcing stimulus has the ability to increase the “behavior which occurs prior to the reinforcer” or operant. This is what is known as operant conditioning. Now, an outcome or consequence may result because of the behavior. The nature of this outcome may determine the tendency of the individual to carry out the same action or behavior in future. Thus, the probability of the occurrence of the...
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