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Personality Analysis: Skinner’s and Kohut’s Theories Essay (Critical Writing)

Analyzing personality profile using two theories

Kohut talked about the self-object relationship whereby he noted that the self refers to the behavior of the child while objects are other people in their lives, including parents. Objects are divided into two major categories, one of them being external objects, which refer to parents while the other is internal objects that represent the experiences of children with their parents. An interaction between the child and the parent results in the development of the nuclear self. Kohut focused his attention on narcissism, which was simply based on the Greek myth of narcissus. Narcissus was believed to be a handful of young men who failed to fall in love with all beautiful young women. He could not even entertain the presence of Echo, which was a divine spirit that would easily animate nature. The spirit was extremely beautiful. The spirit had been cursed to echo the sound that others would make. Since Narcissus was unable to fall in love, he was made to admire his reflection in the pool. In a different rejoinder, the theorist suggested that a mother’s love would fulfill the needs of each child. However, this would not be automatic, which would perhaps lead to trauma. For the child to generate some resistance against trauma, he or she should develop a grandiose self, which refers to the unconscious belief among children. This belief encourages children to feel that they are indeed perfect in what they do. The child feels that he or she should be admired or be mirrored to fulfill self-desires. Mothers are in a position of approving and confirming the behavior of any child through empathy. Consequently, children would feel appreciated and would tend to internalize this relationship.

Since mothers are concerned with the healthy living of their children meaning they would not allow certain behaviors to go on unnoticed. In this regard, they would set limits on the child’s desires. The mother would ensure that the child develops only desirable qualities. Negative qualities are often punished severely to prevent the development of a negative personality. This process is referred to as optimal frustration. The child would perhaps believe that his or her rights have been violated, but the mother would aim to instill positive values. However, the mother does all these in a calm and loving attitude, but not aggressively. The child would realize that certain behaviors are undesirable and therefore they should be discarded. Through this, the child would develop transmutation internalization whereby he or she would accept the reality that certain actions are inconsistent with societal norms. The child would perhaps disengage from the grandiose self and aspire to be more realistic and develop an independent nuclear self. If a child were consistently frustrated, he or she would reach a stage referred to as optimal frustration whereby some maturity would be demonstrated. At this stage, the child would not need the help of the mother to do some basic things, such as washing, dressing, and eating. The stage would force the child to learn new skills that would allow him or her to cope with the challenges of adulthood.

On his part, Skinner talked about three major concepts, including behaviorism, respondent behavior, and operant behavior. To him, people respond to certain stimuli within the environment. He referred to this as respondent behavior. This response can be conditioned or unconditioned. Conditioned behavior refers to involuntary actions whereby an individual would do something that he or she had no control over it. Some of the things that an individual finds him or herself doing involuntarily include knee-jerking, yawning, and even laughing. An individual would as well do something through consent, which includes learning. Operant behavior is often introduced to change an individual’s behavior. This type of behavior operates based on the prevailing conditions in the environment and has a high chance of changing it. In particular, it weakens voluntary behaviors or actions. Based on this, Skinner defined personality as a collection of operant behavior or operant conditioning. Operant conditioning has specific principles that accompany it. It states that one event (B) would only occur if another event (A) takes place. For instance, the parent would praise the child (event B) if only the child accepts to accomplish his or her homework in time (event A). The child starts doing his or her homework after the teacher assigns it to him or her. Acceptance to do the homework is voluntary behavior. The result of doing homework is praise from parents.

Skinner argued further that reinforcement is an important concept in personality development. Positive reinforcement would lead to an increased frequency of the behavior. Some of the primary or unconditioned reinforcement instruments include food and thirst. Most of the primary reinforcement tools are natural. Secondary or conditioned reinforcement tools include praise from parents and handouts. Negative reinforcement entails the use or adoption of a certain method to avoid unpleasant stimuli. This might include the use of medicine to remove unpleasant stimulus following a response or behavior. Moreover, an individual might leave the house very early in the morning to prevent traffic jams.

Identifying results

The Five-Factor Model of Personality reveals the structure of human personality. The model reports on the five major personality traits, as discussed below. The first trait is extraversion, which reflects the choice of behaviors in some situations. Individuals with strong extraversion personality are known to be energetic and would tend to seek the company of other people in doing their things. Individuals scoring low points on this personality trait are often quiet and reserved. The results of the test conducted on Nick produced twenty-nine points on this trait meaning that the individual is average in terms of sociability. The second factor is agreeableness or friendliness, which focuses on how an individual relates to other people in the surrounding. An individual scoring high on this type of personality is believed to be friendly, trustworthy, and cooperative. Those with low scores are aggressive and less cooperative (Buchanan, Johnson, & Goldberg, 2005). The friend (Nick) scored twenty-seven meaning that he is about average when compared to other individuals who have ever taken the test. The third personality factor in the model is conscientiousness, which is also referred to as goodwill or dependability. This shows how an individual is prepared to undertake his or her duties. If an individual has a high score, it means that he or she is disciplined, well prepared to perform his or her roles, and is devoted to his or her duties. If another individual registers a low score after the test, it shows that he or she is always less cautious, less focused, and easily troubled. Based on the test that Nick undertook, he is most probably careless and easily troubled since he scored less than twenty-six.

Neuroticism is the fourth personality trait under this model. This personality focuses on the possibility of an individual showing negative thoughts and feelings. If an individual scores a high mark, the chances of him or her encountering insecure behaviors are very high. Moreover, people with high marks are always emotionally distressed. Those with low scores are stress-free and less expressive. Nick scored twenty-six meaning that he is easily distressed. The last trait, which is culture or intellect, focuses on open-mindedness and the desire to develop an interest in culture. Those with high scores are imaginative, creative, and would have some educational experience. However, low scorers are sensible. Nick scored nineteen, which is extremely low meaning that he does not like the works of art.

Similarities and differences between the two theory

The major similarity between the two theories is that they both analyze the effect of parents on the personality of the child or the individual. In other words, the theories suggest that the family is the primary socializing agent, which affects the early life of an individual in several ways. Kohut suggested that the mother plays a critical role in shaping the behavior of the child. He termed such a relationship self-object while Skinner (2006) referred to the same situation as operant conditioning. The child is easily influenced to demonstrate those behaviors that are desirable only. The less desirable behaviors are prevented.

Applying the integrated information to personality

From the test, Nick is indeed an averagely social person since he can seek the company of others. Skinner suggested that positive reinforcement results in the development of positive behavior. This could have contributed to the development of Nick’s personality since he is not persistent, as far as accomplishing his goals is concerned. The results of the test show that Nick is not easily stressed meaning that the family played a major role in stabilizing his personality. As per the views of Kohut, the mother was always present to shape the behavior of Nick. Unfortunately, the results showed that Nick seems to be pragmatic and less interested in the works of art. This shows that Nick lacks adequate knowledge to cope with modern challenges. The environment, according to Skinner, could have caused this since Nick was brought up in a poor neighborhood, which could have affected his personality. The results prove further that Nick is not persistent in pursuing his goals. In other words, the individual is less caring and unfocussed in life. According to Kohut (2009), this is caused by a condition in which parents fail to meet the desires and the wishes of children adequately. Nick’s parents failed to nurture his behavior appropriately.

Criticism the two theory

The two theories are valid as far as explaining Nick’s behavior is concerned. The family indeed plays a critical role in defining the behavior of the child in society. From the test results, Nick is careless, inattentive, and distracted from his duties. His socialization is average meaning that he does not associate well with everybody. Skinner’s theory explains that operant conditioning is always needed to shape the behavior of an individual. This would be reinforced through tools such as food and rewards. On his part, Kohut suggested that the child would experience disturbances in life in case parents do not provide adequate guidance. In this regard, parents should always accept their roles and play them faithfully.


Buchanan, T., Johnson, J. A., & Goldberg, L. R. (2005). Implementing a Five-Factor Personality Inventory for Use on the Internet. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 21(2), 115-127.

Kohut, H. (2009). The Restoration of the Self. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Skinner, B. F. (2006). About Behaviorism. New York: Random House.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Personality Analysis: Skinner's and Kohut's Theories." January 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/personality-analysis-skinners-and-kohuts-theories/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Personality Analysis: Skinner's and Kohut's Theories'. 4 January.

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