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Chapter 9 theories of Personality

Chapter 9 theories of Personality - C hapter 9 B F Skinner...

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Chapter 9. B. F. Skinner[*] AP/Wide World Photos Chapter Outline Biographical Sketch Skinner and Personality Theory Respondent and Operant Behavior Operant Conditioning Chaining Verbal Behavior Reinforcement Schedules Superstitious Behavior Reinforcement Contingencies Our Biggest Problem Behavior Disorders and Behavior Therapy Walden Two Beyond Freedom and Dignity Evaluation Summary Experiential Exercises Discussion Questions It is ironic that B. F. Skinner’s views are being considered in a text on personality theory because he denied both the concept of personality and the use of theories as research tools. With respect to personality, Skinner wrote: I do not believe that my life shows a type of personality à la Freud, an archetypal pattern à la Jung, or a schedule of development à la Erikson. There have been a few abiding themes, but they can be traced to environmental sources rather than to traits of character. They became a part of my life as I lived it; they were not there at the beginning to determine its course. (1983, p. 401) As we see in the preceding quotation, Skinner rejected many of the core ideas of personality theories we have considered thus far. He adhered to an approach in psychology known as radical behaviorism , which we will describe shortly. Most importantly, many concepts found in other theories, concepts such as consciousness, the unconscious, anxiety, and even the idea of the “self”—real or ideal—are not considered. 260 Biographical Sketch Chapter 9 1
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Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born on March 20, 1904, in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. He was the first child of William Arthur and Grace Madge Skinner. A second son, Edward James, was born two and a half years later but died suddenly of a cerebral aneurism when Skinner was a freshman in college. Skinner considered his mother the dominant member of the family and was often reminded that she almost died bringing him into the world (Skinner, 1976, p. 23). The Presbyterian religion was a major theme in Skinner’s early life. He attended bible classes and embraced a number of traditional religious beliefs. During adolescence, however, he abandoned his religious convictions and never returned to them. Skinner’s father was a lawyer who wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, but that was not to be. Skinner was raised according to strict standards but was physically punished only once: I was never physically punished by my father and only once by my mother. She washed my mouth out with soap and water because I had used a bad word. My father never missed an opportunity, however, to inform me of the punishments which were waiting if I turned out to have a criminal mind. He once took me through the county jail, and on a summer vacation I was taken to a lecture with colored slides describing life in Sing Sing. As a result I am afraid of the police and buy too many tickets to their annual dance. (1967, pp. 390–391) Perhaps this unusually small amount of physical punishment influenced Skinner’s later theoretical emphasis on the positive rather than on the negative (i.e., via punishment)
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