Personality touches on a person’s behavioral characteristics and his/her reactions to the environment. Behavior forms the benchmark factor to personality, while skills, values and attitude influence overall behavioral patterns of a person. A person’s behavior determines his/her personality since biological, social, and inner factors play significant roles in personality development and account for the differences that arise.
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In analyzing personality, the treatise purposefully compares and contrasts humanistic/ existential theory with learning theory after describing the role of personality in affecting behavior. Besides, the essay discusses the personality characteristics attributed to the aforementioned theories. Finally, the discourse explores the interpersonal relational aspects that associate with the two named theories.
Personality develops in a person, and in the process advances to a distinct state within different people. From the above definition of personality, it is evident that the term depends on an individual’s perception on reality given that it is the way an individual perceive circumstances, which determines how he/she responds to the instance beforehand.
In line with the two theories, there is no distinct in the way they one responds to different situations. Both humanistic and learning theories prefer proactive behavior to reactive behavior, and emphasize on how one perceives the situation; however, the theories exclude neuroticism in influencing behavior.
Feist and Feist (2009) define learning theory as a process where human beings study new conceptions and accommodate them, thus having a relatively permanent change in behavior. Maslow believed that a motivating force pushes human beings towards meeting their goals and targets. For humanistic theory, it analyzes how the self-drive compels behaviors towards meeting specific goals.
This process of fulfilling needs continues through a cycle of waning and rising depending on the state of needs’ satisfaction. For instance, when one meets his/her needs fully, the motivation fades and the center of attention decreases until another need that requires fulfillment takes its place.
In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, internal forces push for the fulfillment of higher needs, such as self-evolution and actualization and esteem needs while external forces, which are beyond the control of humans, drive the fulfillment of physiological needs (Feist & Feist, 2009). This dimension attests that human needs are in two different forms: physical and psychological.
When one combines the knowledge of both humanistic/existential and learning theories in understanding humans, a revelation of abroad picture of human personality and interaction with the environment is evident. Learning theories believe in the influence of environment and cognitive conditions. In addition, a person’s belief can influence behavior towards a situation. According to Bandura, this is a concept of self-efficacy, which influences how one behaves in a given scenario.
However, it is does not provide exclusive effects on behavior since other factors like personal expectations play key roles in determining behavior (Bandura, 1997). For behaviorism, the learning process occurs in a trial and error style, and people hold onto various behaviors until they find one that is reinforcing. Here, individuals apply the previously learnt knowledge in developing explicit expectancy and recognizable reward values in comparable scenarios.
The entire process involves a pre-analysis of past actions and results, which act as guiding factors towards behavior production in a new set-up. Response to environment stimuli moves a learner from a passive state to an active state. According to Kelly, behaviors have different options in a build-up classification; therefore, one has to predict how events are likely to occur in order to choose behavior. All the learning theories hold different claims on behavior variation and the given situation.
On the other hand, humanism/existentialism takes an approach that holds that an individual does implementation of learning at personal levels to fulfill personal interests or needs. A person’s potential determines various actions of individuals in any situation, as it outlays the level at which one can respond in a humanistic theory others (Hoffman, 2004). Affective and cognitive needs are key determinants to responses that people show in existential theories.
Supportive environments provide a good learning and interaction environment for individuals in any situation. A person’s reactions are conditional to the present and future needs given that the reactions target to execute such needs at any point in time. Choices that people make help them to know who they are; therefore, personality development depends on one’s potential and the ability to stir up conscious thinking.
In relation to personality characteristics, humanistic psychology holds that the need for free will forms the foundation for personality development, and the external drive towards self-evolution motivates the creation of one’s personality. Choices that people make help them in creating their personality. For instance, Roll May attest on three relationships that forms the basis of personality reveals their contribution and production on personality evolution.
In the relationships, the first affiliation is with oneself, the second affiliation is with others, and the last relationship is with the environment. For Rogers, humans being’s self-awareness assists them in decision-making processes and taking part in formation of their personal characteristics. Maslow believed that biological dynamics as well as cultural and environmental issues affect the determination of personality in individuals.
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Learning theories, on their part, believe that personality develops from accumulation of learned knowledge, and it continues throughout a person’s lifetime. Bandura posits that learning occurs through modeling, observation, and imitation; the learned aspects go on to affect characters of an individual overtime.
This is why people from same culture may have comparable personalities, while those from different ways of life have diverse personalities. According to Skinner’s radicalism theory, environmental interactions shape personality and acquisition of characters through interaction and learning. Therefore, personality is measurable and observable, and comes from activities that one does. Current self-awareness and anticipation of certain occurrences guide personality development from the aspects of social learning theories.
Consequently, anticipation and self-awareness influence all human activities (Feist & Feist, 2009). For Skinner, genetics plays essential roles in personality development, and the variation in genetics is responsible for the difference in personality. Nonetheless, environment also plays significant role in development of personality.
In his proclamation, an organized set of contingencies such as social environment, geographical environment, climate, and personal physical strength define behavior. Rotter believed that an individual’s experiences and history influence his/her goals and personality. On the other hand, Mischel recognized the essence of individual differences in behavior acquisition and personality development.
For Bandura, one can learn without performing behavior through observational learning, which views human nature as proactive, self-regulating, and self-reflective (Bandura, 1997). Development of interpersonal relationships is dependent on experience throughout life, which are due to learning from life practices. These theories face criticism for failing to inculcate individual differences and genetic factors in the entire study of personality development.
Humanistic theory asserts that association of persons is a physical connection with others through healthy and productive dealings, but in reality, they are on their own. Maslow believed in fulfillment of love and belongingness through families and friends’ associations. Since these needs were of primary level, their fulfillments were also essential in determining the success of other needs at higher levels. For May, people choose want they want to be through healthy interaction or association with others (Hoffman, 2004).
From the analysis, humanism observes that interpersonal relations form substantive part of human life. Lack of interpersonal relationships results in unhealthy growth and development from a psychological perspective. Maslow held that those with complete interpersonal relations have self-confidence in all their life activities, and even experience reciprocation from those important to them.
According to learning theories, personal interactions have rewards or reinforcements. Initial family groupings help in protection from external aggressors while at the workplaces, such groupings help in building reinforcement to address common issues. Evidently, there is promise for reinforcement through social engagements.
Social environment influences the personality of humans given the constant interaction in interpreting such events. Human beings influence each other, as they interact with their meaningful environments, hence revealing the freedom of choice that one has on personality development. How one perceives the environment helps in developing self-identity and interpersonal relationships through interpretation of values, existence, and purpose.
Humanistic/existential theories believe in human internal drives in arriving at the ultimate state of self, while learning theories believe in response to the environment as a key determinant in comprehending development of personality. The environment highly affects the learning process and, finally, behavior development.
The diversified discussion on roles of personality on affecting situational behavior, explanation of personality characteristics in relation to the two theories, and explanation of interpersonal relations provide wealth of information in understanding human personality from a psychological perspective.
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.
Feist, J. & Feist, G. J. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Hoffman, L. (2004). Existential therapy. Existential Therapy Homepage. Retrieved from https://existential-therapy.com/