Theories of Personality

Behaviorism, particularly operant conditioning, emphasizes the role of the environment in shaping personality growth and development. Using what you know about Skinnerian theory, answer the following questions: 1. A teacher wanted to stop some children from losing control of themselves in the classroom. She decided to give them a check-mark every time they lost control. If they went three days with no check-marks, they received a plastic toy car.

After a week she gave up because the approach did not seem to be working. Evaluate the teacher’s effort, assess why it did not work, and suggest an alternative behavior modification procedure. The teacher’s idea was on the right track, but she failed to realize certain aspects of Skinnerian theory. Changes in behavior are the result of an individual’s response to events (stimuli) that occur in the environment, not necessarily the entire classroom/group of students. Furthermore, checkmarks are a symbol of derogatory or negative behavior.

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Checkmarks represent positive feedback and/or behavior. Lastly, the teacher waited to long to provide the children with positive reinforcement (reward) in the form of a toy car. The teacher should have made a response for each setting with the children and provided immediate feedback/praise. One alternative behavior modification procedure the teacher could have utilized is: 1. Discuss with the children why its important not to loose control and provide immediate and positive feedback for their answers.

Additionally the teacher can spin a child’s answer into what she wants the children to learn and take away. Thus always making the child’s answer correct and reinforcing the positive feedback. 2. Next reinforce the children’s good behavior daily through verbal praise, and hint at the aspect of receiving a prize if the good behavior continues. Here is where the “checkmarks” could have a positive and beneficial usage. On the third day (or whenever deemed necessary) reward the children with the toy car.

These continued positive steps will expose the student to the desired outcome in gradual steps, and strengthens the desired response. 2. Imagine the following situation: A four-year-old child is throwing a temper tantrum in the candy isle of the grocery store. Embarrassed, the mother quickly buys the child the desired candy in order to avoid an embarrassing scene. Explain how this situation demonstrates both positive and negative reinforcement. Using what you know about operant conditioning, what would you advise the mother to do?

Be specific and defend your answer. This situation demonstrates positive reinforcement because the mother has just proven to the child that by throwing “temper tantrum” she can get her way / what she wants. In addition to that this situation demonstrates negative reinforcement because it strengthens the child’s “temper tantrum” behavior by avoiding the aversive event of dealing with the “embarrassing scene”. I personally would advise the mother to take her child to a private location (either the car or bathroom) and give the child a spanking.

I personally believe that spanking a child is perfectly acceptable when done for the appropriate situations. I’m not suggesting the mother or any parent beat their child. I believe there is a difference between spanking and beating children. By spanking the child in this situation the child will learn the consequences for throwing a “temper tantrum” and the response it produces i. e. stimuli (temper tantrum) and reward (spanking). Furthermore, this “reward” cannot be an idle threat and it must be constant.

Children will push the limits on testing what they can and cannot get away with, and if they win one ‘battle’ they’ll try to win it again and again. Furthermore, the mother must inform the child why he or she is receiving the spanking. If she doesn’t the child might become confused as to why he or she is being punished. By explaining to the child the reasoning behind the punishment the mother will reinforce the “reward”, and the child will know not to throw another “temper tantrum”. However, as I stated already children will fight the same ‘battle’ more than once so the mother must always remain constant in her “reward”.

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