You should cover:
  • Personality Theories
    • Behaviorism
    • Humanism
    • Cognitive
    • Trait theories



The fundamental idea of behaviorism is that as people differ in each of their individual experiences, they acquire different behaviors and therefore different personalities. This supports the concept that personalities are shaped by the environment that a person is subject to and completely disregards any influence a person's individual thoughts may have on their personality development. Through behaviorism, every aspect of an individual's personality
Sigmund Freud
can be explained through an analysis of their unique environment.

Throughout the development of behaviorism, several psychologists stand out in this theory's history. Perhaps the most notable of these psychologists is B.F. Skinner, famous for his work in operant conditioning and celebrated as one of the most influential psychologists since Sigmund Freud. Known for his system of "controlled rewards and punishments," Skinner believed that he could predict and control behavior through reinforcers either found or placed in a subject's environment. However, much to the criticism of other psychologists, Skinner only saw meaning in controlling behaviors instead of understanding them and their reasons for existence.

B.F. Skinner described four distinct types of operant conditioning that affected the behavior of a given subject within an environment. These types are "Positive Reinforcement", "Negative Reinforcement", "Punishment", and "Extinction."

Press.sized.jpg-Positive Reinforcement is the immediate receiving of a reward or positive reinforcer after a specific behavior and therefore increasing the likelihood of that behavior.
-Negative Reinforcement is the use of punishment or some negative reinforcer before the behavior, in order to encourage the likelihood of a behavior.
-Punishment is the use of a negative reinforcer after a certain behavior in order to decrease the likelihood of some behavior.
-Extinction in the final loss of a behavior due to the loss of some positive reinforcer or the lack of stopping some negative reinforcer.

Another influential figure of the behaviorism psychology is Ivan Pavlov. Many recognize him for his use of dogs in his famous "psychic secretion" experiments. In these experiments Pavlov introduced steaks to individual dogs along with the sound of a ringing bell. Of course, when each dog saw the steak they began to salivate in anticipation of the potential meal. It is a usual and expected result for a dog, or any mammal for that matter, to salivate in the presence of food, however after several sessions of the steak and the bell the dogs began to salivate merely at the sound of the bell. The dogs had been successfully conditioned to salivate at the sound of the bell even though normally the bell had nothing to do with food.


Quite opposite on the psychoanalytical spectrum from behaviorism is humanism. While behaviorism gave cause for the developement of a personality and behavior pattern entirely to the environment, humanism states that each person is shaped only by his or her personal standards and is free from any instinctual pressures; that the motivation for different behaviors comes from within insted of without as behaviorism would say. Two major figureheads of the humanistic psychology are Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers.

Abraham Maslow believed that all people and actions that they take are do to a certain hierarchy of needs that everyone strives to complete. Beginning with basic personal and biological needs, Maslow's Hierarchy eventually leads a person to a state of "Self-Actualization". Generally, Maslow's Hierarchy is viewed as a pyramid type figure divided into five levels, with any given person not being able to proceed to the following level without first satisfying the previous level.

Acting as the base of the pyramid are the physiological needs that are required for every person to live. These include the basic materials of water, food, sleep, and shelter along with other fundamental needs of the human body.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Next up the pyramid from the physiological needs are the safety needs that each person seeks. Security of home, family, property, and livelihood occupy this section in Maslow's Hierarchy.

Further up from safety needs are the love/belonging needs of the human psyche. In this section are the family and friendship requirements that most people seek to fulfill.

Even higher on the pyramid are the esteem needs of a human being. For this, a person must satisfy a certain amount of self-confidence as well as expressing and receiving respect to and from their peers.

Finally, at the very peek of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs is self-actualization. To Maslow this represented the pinnacle of human achievement as far as progress and comfort within one's self. In this state, a person is to be able to express ultimate creativity, problem solve above that of the average person, and view the world without prejudice and instead with acceptance of what it is and how it can improve.

Also supporting the humanism theory of psychology is a man named Carl Rogers. In his view, each person, or "client" as he called them, was comprised of two distinct halves, the "Self" and the "Organism." The Organism sought fulfill the actualization and organization needs of the whole while the Self was the perception of an individual that represented the "I" or "me" statements of a person. In an unbalanced and emotionally unstable person, Rogers believed that the Organism and the Self were in conflict and were unable to resolve a solution to satisfy both halves. In order to reach a balanced, or "Full-functioning" state, the person must have their organism and self cooperate in unison and express and unconditional positive regard for them self.

Cognitive Theory

Within the Cognitive Theory of psychology is the idea that each person shapes their personality with thought and through the process of thinking. By shaping ourselves with our thoughts, cognitive theorists believe that each person is "Master of their destiny," meaning that we as people become exactly what we want to become though our personal view of the world.

George Kelly
Supporting this idea is the psychologist George Kelly, who unlike most psychologists was concerned mainly by the person themselves instead of th behavior of that person. He believed that each person has what is called a "construct" with which we view the world. In each construct is the aspects and beliefs that govern how a person perceives their environment, their "window to the world." However, through different experiences and thoughts, a person may change their individual construct to fit the world in which they live. An example of this would be the sad tale of a young girl and her dog. To the girl, the dog will live forever and always be there for her. Her construct does not include the concept of death or significant loss, however as the girl ages so does her dog until the day the dog finally passes away and leaves the girl. Of course the death of her dog is a serious impact to her psyche and expands her construct to include the presence of death in her world. In this way, the thoughts and experiences of the death of the girl's dog changes the construct though which the girl views her environment.

Trait Theories

The "Trait Theory" section of psychology seeks to closely examen personality traits in great detail in order to assign numerical values to certain traits. This assumption that every person has the same traits and that those traits can be quantified for mathematical study is the basis for all Trait Theories.

Hans Eysenck, a psychologist from the mid 1950s to the 1980s, believed that each personality could be summed up using three categories of behavior. These categories consisted of extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. Using the first two categories and then a while later all three, Eysenck pioneered the method of "Factor Analysis", which used statistical techniques to quantify an individual's personality. Depending on an individual's scores in each of the first two categories, a personality type could be classified to that individual. Some example classifications are...

Choleric - high scores in both extraversion and neuroticism
Melancholic - a high score in neuroticism but a low score in extraversion
Sanguine - a low score in neuroticism and a high score in extraversion
Phlegmatic - low scores in both extraversion and neuroticism

Works Cited:

  1. Boeree, Dr. C. George. "B.F. Skinner." Personality Theories. 2006. Shippensburg University. 17 Jan 2008 <>.
  2. "Operant Conditioning." Negative Reinforcement University. 23 November 1999. Maricopia Center For Learning and Instruction. 17 Jan 2008 <>.
  3. "Sigmund Freud - Life and Work." Freud File. 9 December 2007. AROPA. 17 Jan 2008 <>.
  4. Levine, Alan. "Operant Conditioning." 23 November 1999. Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction. 17 Jan 2008 <>.
  5. "Ivan Pavlov - Biography." Nobel 2008. Nobel Foundation. 17 Jan 2008 <>.
  6. "Classical Conditioning." Healthy 15 September 1996. SBB. 17 Jan 2008 <>.
  7. "George Kelly." Personal Construct Psychology. 11 February 1995. KSI Inc.. 17 Jan 2008 <>.

Created by: Ryan K