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One’s experiences and innate knowledge have considerable influence on one’s behavior, as seen through B. F. Skinner’s life. He was an accomplished psychologist owing to a combination of favorable developmental changes.
Heredity and environment on Skinner’s psychological development
Heredity contributed to Skinner’s development because psychologists acknowledge that a person’s genes have a tremendous influence on their personality. For instance, one’s biological predispositions can determine how well adjusted a person is (Miller & West, 1998). Even an individual’s ability to get along with one’s peers and one’s propensity to become delinquent may emanate from one’s genes. Skinner was a well-adjusted adult, who knew a lot about various fields (music, literature). He engaged in meaningful and often stimulating conversations with people.
His daughter asserted that Skinner was well rounded; he rarely lost his temper and loved children. In all these respects, Skinner would pass geneticists’ description of a fully-functioning adult who did not inherit personality deviances. Some of the psychologist’s accomplishments have little to do with his environment, thus indicating that heredity contributed to his psychological development. For instance, he critiqued situations and came up with new ideas independent of any influences. In fact, he became famous because his contributions to behavioral psychology were new to the world. The scholar did not borrow or learn them from other individuals, so they may be attributed to his genetic, cognitive ability. Skinner’s intelligence may be partially explained by his natural skill.
On the other hand, the environment also contributed to this scholar’s life story. He was an excellent problem solver as well as an abstract thinker as an adult. During his childhood, it is likely that country upbringing led to these personality traits. First, he a number of tools, materials and challenges surrounded him. In fact, many individuals from his community had a hands-on approach to issues. There were few service providers, so they had to deal with their problems single-handedly. Skinner adopted the same method when tackling scientific or psychological problems.
Aside from the country lifestyle, Skinner’s family background also affected how he developed. He had a relatively stable childhood, where both parents were present. They took him to school and provided him with the basics of life. Additionally, Skinner’s father stimulated his intellectual interests by purchasing a lot of books for him. They also encouraged him to have a hobby, which was mechanical building. As a child, Skinner made rafts, roller skates, small airplanes and other similar devices. If his family members did not support these activities, then Skinner may not have used his mechanical skills in his adult life.
Family issues and social support influence on his growth
Skinner’s parents shaped his developmental growth substantially. They were a middle-income household that had minimal financial or relational distractions. Therefore, they gave him the attention and care that he needed as a child. School or education was also a crucial form of social support for the theorist. He attended school regularly and even exhaled in his tertiary education. The people of Pennsylvania, through their culture, also altered Skinner’s developmental growth. They expected men to have stable careers and take care of their children. This explained why Skinner abandoned the unpredictable world of literature for psychology (Holland, 1992). It also shows why he was a reliable father to his children. Culture defined Skinner’s place with regard to his social status, gender role and economic responsibilities. On the other hand, his mother and grandmother had unusually strong beliefs about religion as seen through their exaggerated descriptions of hell. These rigid stances may have caused Skinner to become rebellious in his early adulthood. He often criticized religion regardless of attending a Christian college in New York.
The other social support system in Skinner’s life was the psychological community. He did most of his first research on behaviorism under the guidance of Harvard scholars. Furthermore, he read a lot of material on the behaviorism, and this stimulated some of his own ideas. Individuals such as John Watson caused Skinner to think about operant conditioning.
Two theories that apply to Skinner
In the social learning theory, adherents affirm that cognitive and environmental components both influence personality. Furthermore, people learn by observing and modeling their behavior based on their experiences as well as their environment. For instance, one may purchase designer clothes because one is modeling it after a celebrity that one saw on a TV advertisement. In Skinner’s case, he became an influential psychologist because he modeled his behavior after other intellectuals of his time, such as Watson. Skinner belonged to one of the most reputable universities in the country – Harvard; therefore, he adopted attitudes and behaviors that were typical of the alumni. Members of Harvard followed well-established methodologies and approaches in their field. Skinner adopted the rigorous scientific approaches of his peers through social learning.
The social constructivism theory describes one’s personality as an amalgamation of one’s beliefs, experiences and interpretation. Therefore, different people have different ways of looking at their world because their experiences are quite distinct (Ayers, 2006). In Skinner’s case, the theorist had unique perspectives about things because of knowledge that he had acquired in the past, but also because of the beliefs he held about human psychology. Unlike his peers who believed in focusing on the theoretical aspects of behavior such as perception and emotions, Skinner believed that the consequences of behavior could affect one’s outcome. His preference for observable facts probably stemmed from his earlier experiences as a producer of mechanical objects. It was this basis that lay a foundation for the construction of his theory.
The most appropriate theory
The social constructivism theory is more appropriate to Skinner’s achievements and behavior than social learning. While social learning focuses on reproduction of knowledge, social constructivism dwells on construction of that knowledge. Therefore, one’s personality is not dependent on one’s imitation of others, but on one’s interpretation of one’s experiences. Skinner’s achievements were unique and authentic; they were not reproductions or imitations of other people’s work as explained in the social learning theory. Social constructivism acknowledges the importance of one’s unique experiences and interpretations of one’s world. Skinner interpreted problems in distinctive ways thus explaining why the theory best applies to him.
Skinner was a successful psychologist because positive genetic factors and environmental factors combined to create his personality. He had a stable family, strong education, supportive university members, a stimulating childhood environment and a family-oriented community. On the other hand, he probably had innate intellectual abilities that caused him to question things and invent devices when others from a similar environment could not do the same. Skinner’s uniqueness explains why the social constructivism theory best explains his behavioral patterns.
Ayers, S. (2006). Cambridge handbook of psychology, health and medicine. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Holland, J. (1992). B.F. Skinner. Pittsburgh: American Psychologist.
Miller, P. & West, M. (1998). Parental behavior in diverse societies. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.