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Learning Theory Behavorism

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The behavoristic approach has exerted a strong influence on American Psychology. The basic ideas of behaviorism are: human behavior is a product of the Stimulus-Response interaction and that behavior is modifiable. It has triggered scientific experiments and the use of statistical procedures. Most importantly, it has turned the attention of psychology to solving real behavior related problems. The behavorist believe behavior should be explained in terms of environmental stimuli. It is not necessary to go into the postulating of inner mechanisms or traits because it creates additional mysteries that need to be explained. Though with the behavoristic approach its known that certain environmental conditions tend to procedure certain types of behavior, and with this less tedious process. (Stevenson n.p.g)

To get a better understanding of this theory I've selected two behaviorists, Gordon Allport and B.F. Skinner; well known for their approaches in the study of behaviorism.



Gordon Allport was born to Montezuma, Indiana, in 1897, the youngest of four brothers. A shy boy, he was teased and lived a fairly isolated childhood. (textbook 191) His father was a country doctor, and this meant that his father's patients were always in the house. Everyone in his house worked hard. His early life seemed to be pleasant and uneventful.

I have looked in many resources and I've come to the conclusion that not too many people went into depth about the childhood of Allport. What was known about his is Allport received his PH.D. in Psychology in 1922 from Harvard, following in the foot steps of his brother Floyd, who became an important social psychologists. (Allport 67) Though in all of the research I did, this was always mentioned: When he was 22 he traveled to Vienna. He had arranged to meet with Sigmund Freud. There was at first silence, though no longer be able to take the silence, Gordon blurted out an observation he had made on his way to meet Freud. He mentioned that he had seen a little boy on the bus that was very upset at having to sit where a dirty old man had sat previously. Gordon thought that this child had learned this from his mother, a very neat and apparently a domineering type. Freud, instead of taking it as a simple observation, took it to be an expression of some deep, unconscious process in Gordon's mind, and said "And was that little boy you? (Boeree 98) This experience led him to his theory, it made his realize that depth psychology sometimes digs too deep, in the same way that he had earlier realized that most importantly "Behaviorism often doesn't dig deeply enough. His career was spent developing his theory, examining social issues as prejudice, and developing personality tests.


Allport was against opportunistic functioning. His belief of this term was characterized as reactive, past-oriented, and of course biological. He felt it was unimportant when trying to understand most of human behavior. He believed most human behavior, is motivated by functioning in a manner expressive of the self - which he called propriate functioning. (Allport 37) Propriate functioning can be characterized as proactive, future-oriented, and psychological.

Propriate comes from the word proprium. Allport's name, for essential concept, the self. Because it put so much emphasis on the self, Allport defined it as with care. He handled this task from two directions, phenomenologically and functionically. Phenomenologically is the self as experienced. He suggested that that the self is composed of aspects of your experiencing that you see as most essential, warm and central.

His functional definition became a theory all by itself. The self has seven functions that arise at certain times of one's life:

Sense of body develops in first two year. We have a body and feel its closeness, its warmth. It has boundaries that pain and injury, touch and movement, make us aware of.

Self-identity develops in first two years also. Points were we recognize ourselves as continuing, as having a past, present and future. We see ourselves as individuals.

Self-esteem develops between two and four years old. This is a time when we recognize that we have value, to others and to ourselves.

Self-extension develops between four and six. Certain things become to be thought of as warm, essentials to my existence. Some people define themselves in terms of the people who are close to them.

Self-image also develops between four and six. This is the "looking-glass self," the me as others see me.

Rational coping is learned mostly in the years from six till twelve. Child began the abilities to deal with problems rationally and effectively. This is analogous to Erikson's "industry. (Allport 37)

Propriate strives begins usually after the age of twelve. This is my self as goals, ideal plans, , a sense of direction, a sense of purpose.

Now, as the proprium is developing in this way, we are also developing personal disposition. A personal disposition is defined as "generalized neuropsychic structure (peculiar to the individual), with the capacity, ability and functionally equivalent to guide consistent forms of adaptive and stylistic behavior. A personal disposition produces equivalences in function and meaning between various perceptions, beliefs, feelings, and actions that are not necessarily equivalent in the natural world, or anyone else's mind. Another way to put it is to say that dispositions are concrete, easily recognized, and consistent in our behaviors. (Boree 98)

It is important to remember that Allport believed that traits are essentially unique to each individual: One person's fear isn't the same as another's. For this reason, Allport strongly pushed what he called idiographic methods - methods that focused on studying one person at a time, such as interviews, observation, analysis and so on. These are now referred to as qualitative methods.

Allport recognize that some traits are more closely tied to the proprium (one's self) than others. (Allport 67) Central traits



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