Learning Theory and Personality

Majority of notes I took from the fantastic Maltby, Day and Macaskill ‘Individual Differences’ textbook (click image)

 

LEARNING THEORY PERSPECTIVES ON PERSONALITY

– behaviour not directed by inner motives; no underlying personality structure necessary

– behaviour is learned: through reward, or avoiding discomfort/ punishment

– all behaviour is learned; individual differences due to diff learning experiences, not personality

– to understand behaviour need to look at specific situation & similar past experiences  

 

INTRODUCTION TO LEARNING THEORY

– Pavlov (c1906) showed that dog’s salivation could be conditioned to a bell or light

– that light or bell with no food led to extinction

– showed our emotional responses can be explained by classical conditioning

– means that our e.g. anxiety can be extinguished/ unlearned as it’s not part of our personality

– Watson & Rayner (1920): emotions can be manipulated with classical conditioning (Albert rat)

– many phobias have been successfully treated with systematic desensitisation

– psychopathology due to faulty learning/ maladaptive responses as opp. adaptive ones

 


 

THE RADICAL BEHAVIOURISM OF B.F.SKINNER (c1948)

– didn’t accept concept of personality: unobservable personality structures unscientific

– cause of behaviour to do with our developmental learning history

– inner states do exist but unnecessary to explain behaviour

– agreed with Freud that early experiences had great impact: but early conditioning experiences

– trait names useful for describing but don’t explain how someone became e.g. friendly

– genetic inheritance had some influence on behaviour; but situational factors more important

– accepted classical conditioning principles, but had limited application

– ‘operant conditioning’ & ‘positive reinforcement’ key: the consequences of the response

– person is friendly as they’ve been reinforced more for being friendly vs unfriendly person

– people aren’t purposeful: intentions (e.g. I’m going out) are responses to int/ext observations associated with e.g. sun

– deterministic; reject free-will; we just respond to stimuli in env & consequences >> learning

 


 

ATTEMPTS TO APPLY LEARNING THEORY APPROACHES TO PERSONALITY

THE S-R MODEL OF PERSONALITY BY DOLLARD & MILLER (c1950)

– allows for inner influence of cognitive processes

– allows for unconscious influences i.e. acquisition of drives early on that we’re unaware of

– personality composed of learned ‘habits’ (S-R associations)

– we are born with innate primary drives (hunger, thirst, sleep, avoid pain)

– reduction of drives by e.g. eating >> reinforcement of primary drives

– learning habits has 4 parts: initial drive, cue to act, response, reinforcement

– drive (e.g. hunger) causes person to act; cues (e.g. advert) direct a person how to respond

– person responds (eats) and positive/ negative experience (taste) >> pos/neg reinforcement

– behaviour motivated by need to reduce primary (e.g. food) or secondary drives (e.g.money)

– treatment involved removing ineffective habits and replace with new effective habits

– also observational learning can explain learning of adaptive/ maladaptive habits

 


 

ALBERT BANDURA & SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY (c1977)

– first learning theorist to emphasise inner cognitive processes

reciprocal determinism: indiv is active, influenced by personal, behaviour & environment factors, interacting with each other

– people have free-will independent of drives, learning environment or reinforcement

personal agency: cognitive processes allow us control in choosing & transforming situations

 

LEARNING IN BANDURA’S MODEL

– personality development is about how we learn to become the person we are

– observational learning (watching others) more important than classical/ operant conditioning

– modelling not passive: active learning via observation (e.g. decide to keep or discard beh)

 

PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT IN SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY

– parents, peers etc are role models children learn from via observational learning

– role models & indiv kid’s learning will be more or less effective; diff envs, cultures >> diff personalities

– showed characteristics of model, attributes of observer & consequences are influential  

– child also actively shapes process: it’s all a very complex dynamic process

 


 

JULIAN ROTTER AND LOCUS OF CONTROL

OC: skipped as section didn’t specifically explain why diff. people have different locus

P.99 says it comes from diff. learning experiences

– message was int/ ext locus of control seems a valid predictor of how people behave

– showed our expectancy (predicted reinforcement) X reinforcement value (preference for particular reinforcements) = probability of beh. happening (‘beh. potential’)

Locus of control: generalised expectancies in new situations

External locus: reinforcement depends on external forces (luck, fate, the state, God)

Internal locus: believe their behaviour makes a difference to outcome

 


 

(OC: Maltby and Day ‘Individual Differences’ textbook put Walter Mischel under ‘learning theory’.

From my reading the most precise category is ‘socio-cognitive theory’)

 

WALTER MISCHEL (1968)

– little evidence that people’s behaviour is consistent in different situations

– criticised trait/ state approach: link between personality trait measures & behaviour low

– in response researchers found knowing both situation & personality better than either alone

 

– Mischel (1973): social-cognitive person variables as opp. trait descriptors to describe indiv diffs

– he considered interpretation of situations, the situation and beliefs, expectations, goals

– interactional approach: how we interpret the world & how situations>>specific behaviour

– indiv diffs not captured in situation-free trait terms like ‘optimistic’, ‘sociable’

– found temporal consistency in behaviour within a specific situation and bet. types of situation

– also systematic differences in perception of situations

– ‘behavioral signature of personality’: stable situation-behaviour relationships, if…then…

– type 1 consistency: trait ratings; type 2 consistency: specific patterns across similar situations

 

– Mischel & Shoda (1995): ‘Cognitive-Affective Processing System’ with Cognitive-Affective Units

– how developmental influences (e.g. biology, culture) interact with interpretation of situation >> behaviour, with feedback loops

– there is complex interaction bet. situations & enduring individual personality differences

– cognitions, memories, emotions, perception, genetics >> indiv differences

– indiv diffs caused by differential accessibility of CAUs & diffs in interrelationships

 

EVALUATION OF LEARNING THEORY APPROACHES

– classical & operant conditioning useful explanations of simple beh. in animals but questionable whether can be applied to humans with complex learning ability/ cognition

– Bandura, Rotter & Mischel allowed cognition: more comprehensive & valuable processes

– deterministic: behaviour determined by how others react to us; can’t explain intentional beh.

– to say that people don’t have indiv. traits influencing beh. in diff. situations goes against loads of evidence

– work based on empirical data from controlled lab studies but assume applies to humans

– Bandura, Rotter & Mischel also accused of making assumptions that go beyond their data

– lots of supporting evidence for  Bandura, Rotter & Mischel’s concepts

– Dollard & Miller’s personality theory not very comprehensive; Bandura comprehensive

– Rotter’s isn’t a detailed comprehensive theory of personality, but outlines components

– but lack of genetic influence on personality development a weakness in all learning theories

 


 

This is a summary of a paper by Walter Mischel: good for opposition to/ evaluation of Trait theory. Relates to the person-situation (trait theory vs. socio-cognitive) debate. I used it for my seen exam essay (distinction!)

 

MISCHEL (2004) – TOWARD AN INTEGRATIVE SCIENCE OF THE PERSON

ABSTRACT

– there were discrepancies bet. expected time/ situation consistency and what was actually found

Personality paradox: reconciling our intuitive concept of personality stability with variance of behaviour in different situations

 

INTRO

– there is stability in cross-situational variability, not constancy, in different situations

– the study of personality is about the study of organised dynamic humans in a social world  

 

FINDING THE INVARIANCE – IN THE VARIABILITY

– there’s an assumption in the field that the more X trait someone has, the more it will show in X situation, compared to someone else

– very low correlation of individual’s behaviour from situation to situation

– the same individual shows great behaviour variation across different situations

 

ELIMINATING CONTEXT BY AGGREGATION ACROSS SITUATIONS

– differences across contexts was aggregated out in trying to get an overall ‘true score’/ invariance

– they were seen as chance fluctuations or errors of measurement

– this comes from the classical assumption that person qualities are independent of situation

– there was a person vs situation debate that was as futile as the nature vs nurture debate

– we need to consider interactions of person & situation factors

 

INCORPORATING SITUATION INTO THE SEARCH FOR COHERENCE

– how a person interprets (more…) a situation as they interact with the situation is important

– different situations leads to different meanings, which leads to different behavioural scripts

– it makes sense that people will behave differently in different psychological situations

– it’s adaptive for people to discriminate bet. situations & would be non-adaptive if they couldn’t

– the invariance in personality comes from taking into account situation & meaning for indiv

 

PERSONALITY COHERENCE IN THE PATTERN OF VARIABILITY

Mischel & Peake (1982) – did a large field study of college students

– observed ‘college conscientiousness’ & friendliness in different contexts & occasions

– found differences across situations; but stability in situations that were similar

– can’t be chance & gives clues about the underlying system, motivations, goals etc

– aggregation loses all this detail

 

LOOKING FOR COHERENCE IN THE VARIABILITY: EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE

Mischel et al (2002) – replicated Newcomb’s (1929) intro/extroversion summer camp study p2

– found indiv diffs/ rank order was inconsistent across different psychological situations

– e.g. aggressive behaviour in one situation didn’t predict it in another

– Mischel is not just saying situations change the normative levels of behaviour:

– the rank order compared to others changes predictably with situation (most aggressive here, least there)

 

BEHAVIOURAL SIGNATURES OF PERSONALITY

– kids with similar average levels of e.g. aggression differed predictably in where aggression happened

– there are IF…THEN situation-behaviour relationships making a behavioural signature of personality

– these stable if-then relationships contradict the notion of random variations from true score

– there’s type 1 elevation (trait type) and type 2 shape (if then) variance

 

SEARCHING FOR THE UNDERLYING ORGANISATION

– theories of personality must account for both type 1 & 2 behavioural consistency

 

FRAMEWORK FOR A DYNAMIC PERSONALITY SYSTEM

CAPS Model (Shoda & Mischel 1998): cognitive affective processing system

– intended to predict the 2 types of behavioural consistency

– the personality system has different CAUs: cognitive affective processing units

– these have our representations of self, others, situations, goals, beliefs, memories etc

– people differ in accessibility to and interconnections bet. CAUs

– situations have different psychological features >> different CAU activation

–  CAU activation changes from one time to another & one situation to another

– but the pattern of their activation is stable >> unique IF THEN patterns

– computer simulations have shown the system generates both type 1 & 2 beh. consistency

 

RESOLUTION OF THE PERSONALITY PARADOX: CONSISTENCY+BEH.SIGNATURES

– consistency/ invariance has been found by adding in the situation, not removing it

 

NEXT CHALLENGE: ORGANISATION & DYNAMICS OF THE PERSONALITY SYSTEM

– CAUs are organized hierarchically in importance of the functioning and maintenance of the priorities and goals of the system as a whole

Personality type: people who share the same organisation of CAUs >> if…then thought, feelings & behaviour in certain situations

– goal is to predict how different personality types think, feel & behave in different situations

 

IDENTIFYING THE ACTIVE INGREDIENT OF SITUATIONS

– this is about finding what features of situations activate certain processing dynamics for a given type of person

 

WHEN THE SITUATION IS ANOTHER PERSON

– the ‘personality’ of a relationship bet. 2 people is more than the sum of the 2 personalities

– knowing if then relationships allows prediction

 

ROLE OF SELF REGULATION AND SELF-REGULATORY COMPETENCIES

(No notes taken)

 

CONCLUSION: PERSONALITY & ASSESSMENT 1968 IN RETROSPECT

– global traits are crude & gross and miss out the complexity of the discriminations that people constantly make

– learning theory too parsimonious for humans; Rotter’s wasnt as it has concepts from all relevant areas of psychology

– all theories & concepts had big impact on psychology e.g. empirical evidence, situation & env. variables

– new treatments: disturbed beh. as reinforced maladaptive response means maybe it can be extinguished

– self-efficacy & locus are valuable factors to consider in behavioural change programmes

– ethical concerns about the potential to apply learning theory to people & societies (Albert)