Behavioral Approaches
to Personality
What is behavior?
Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)
Classical Conditioning
UCS = unconditioned stimulus
CS = conditioned stimulus
UCR = unconditioned reaction
UCS = conditioned reaction
Edward Thorndike (1874-1949)
Law of Effect:
“Of several responses
made to the same situation,
those which are
accompanied or closely
followed by satisfaction to
the animal will be more
firmly connected with the
situation, so that, when it
recurs, they will be more
likely to recur.”
Cat in “puzzle box”
John B. Watson (1878-1958)
• Founder of behaviorism “Psychology as the
Behaviorist Views It” (1913)
• Influenced by Pavlov, Thorndike
• Emphasized the importance of objective
• Focus on animal studies
• Focus on overt behavior
Clark L. Hull (1884-1952)
• Behavior is a function of the environment
AND the properties of the organism (e.g.
needs, cravings, drives)
• Stimulus + Response = Habit
• Habits get formed depending on the
outcomes of the response
• Habits form if certain responses to certain
stimuli are rewarded
Dollard & Miller
“in order to learn one must
• want something (drive - e.g. hunger)
• notice something (cue - e.g. lever)
• do something (response - e.g. push)
• and get something (reward - e.g. get food)”
• Differentiation:
– primary drives (biological - e.g. hunger)
– and secondary drives (learned - e.g. money)
Dollard & Miller:
Personality Development
• Three basic characteristics of infant:
– specific reflexes
– innate response hierarchies
– primary drives
• Four crucial situations:
feeding situation
cleanliness training
early sexual development
anger anxiety conflicts
Basic Units of
View of
Behavioral Data
B.F. Skinner (1904-1990)
• Differentiated between different theorists
Drive Stimulus  Response  Outcome
• Theory of operant conditioning
• Based on Thorndikes “Law of Effect”:
Depending on the type of reinforcement,
specific changes in behavioral frequency are
likely to occur
• Experiments with different reinforcement
schedules (focus on rats & pigeons)
Skinner Box
• positive reinforcement (reward)  increased behavior
• negative reinforcement (remove aversive S) increased behavior
• extinction (no reward)  decreased behavior
• punishment (aversive S/remove reward)  decreased behavior
Reinforcement Schedules
• Consistent - reinforcement every time
• Ratio schedules  number of responses
– fixed ratio (e.g. every fourth response)
– variable ratio (e.g. probability = .25)
• Interval schedules  time interval
– fixed interval (e.g. every 4 minutes)
– variable interval (e.g. on avg. every 4 mins)
• Premack Principle
– behaviors differ in relative probability
– more probable behaviors can become
reinforcers for less probable behaviors
• Superstitious Behavior
– animals are reinforced at random
– soon they start to repeat behavior that coincided
with reinforcement
• Belongingness/Biological Preparedness
– stimulus - response patterns are learned more
easily if they are biologically related
– e.g. food poisoning
Educational Use
of Learning Mechanisms
• Identify problematic behavior
• Identify stimuli that are associated with the behavior
• Identify responses and their outcomes (punishment,
reward, etc.)
• What “drives”, needs, goals may motivate the
• Define alternative behavior
• Formulate an intervention to change the behavior (be
specific: which reinforcement schedules etc.)
(Karen Pryor: Don’t shoot the dog)
The Skinnerian Tradition
• Radical behaviorism: Focus on observable
behavior (no assumption about internal state)
• stimulus  anxiety  avoidance
• stimulus  avoidance/anxiety
• Accused introspectionists of circular
• Dismissed personality as an unscientific
concept and challenged notions of individual
“Beyond Freedom and Dignity” (1971)

August 5 - Behaviorism