Discussion: neo-psychoanalytic and behavioral personality theories

 Neo-psychoanalytic approaches to personality include theorists such as Jung, Horney, Erikson, Adler, and Sullivan. Also referred to as “Neo-Freudians,” this group of theorists was influenced by Freud but developed their own unique concepts of personality development. Although they subscribed to Freud’s underlying theory that childhood experiences powerfully impact adult behavior, each theorist departed from Freud in significant ways. Taken together, they emphasize social and cultural roles in personality development.

Behavioral perspectives include the seminal ideas put forth by Watson, Pavlov, and Skinner and apply these ideas to personality development. The behavioral perspective on personality is based on the central role of consequences, either from human interaction or the natural environment. Behaviors are reinforced or discouraged by consequences, which shapes personality. For example, actions such as being kind or agreeable are typically rewarded. When behaviors are rewarded, they are more likely to be repeated. Then, being kind or agreeable as a personality trait takes shape. Conversely, negative behaviors may also be reinforced or represent the failure to learn or have reinforced more appropriate responses. Skinner extended this theory to mental illness as learned maladaptive behavior. In contrast to personality theories that emphasize internal influences, behavioral theories concentrate on the external and the capacity to correct problems through the same focus.

This week, you will examine two theoretical orientations – neo-psychoanalytic and behavioral, including their respective theorists, cultural considerations, assessments/interventions, limitations, and unique aspects. You will also apply one theory from each orientation to case study analyses.

Review the Learning Resources, focusing on theorists, cultural considerations, assessments/interventions, limitations, and unique aspects of both neo-psychoanalytic theory and behavioral theory.

 Post one key idea from the neo-psychoanalytic theoretical orientation and one from behavioral theory. What is a main difference between these theoretical orientations? What is similar between these theories?  Which one do you more closely align with?   

Required Readings

Cervone, D., & Pervin, L. A. (2019). Personality: Theory and research (14th ed.). Wiley.

  • Chapter 4, “Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory: Applications, Related Theoretical Conceptions, and Contemporary Research” (pp. 85–126) 
  • Chapter 10, “Behaviorism and The Learning Approaches to Personality” (pp. 273–300)
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