Wednesday, April 25, 2012


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Are the way I am and the method in which I came to be a direct result of my environment or was it predetermined from birth? The famous question of nature verses nurture is still presently a fiercely debated subject. In this essay, I will dive into the minds and ideas of famous psychologists and apply their methodology in order to explain who I am and how I came to be. I¡¦ll examine the potential influences from my surroundings and also look at the possibility that who I am was inescapable, my genetic makeup had already established the individual that I would be.

Through everyday engagement with people, either casual or formal, you are undoubtedly going to be influenced by those you interact with one way or another. This form of learning, referred to as observational learning, was extensively investigated by Albert Bandura (177, 186). Essentially, observational learning consists of being conditioned indirectly by virtue of observing another¡¦s conditioning (Weiten, 001). The main influence on children growing up is there parents. Many times, the way children act and speak is reflective of how their parents behave. As a child, my parents instilled values in me that I still carry out today. Although there was much love in household, we were a busy family. Consequently, the lack of attention I received as a child resulted in my independent personality today.

Bandura divided observational learning into 4 categories attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. The first of which is attention, where in order to learn from observation, you must pay attention to another individuals behavior and its consequences (Weiten, 001). My parents would often use punishment as reinforcement to their rules, resulting in my understanding of what is acceptable and what is not. I would also observe others performing what society claims are ¡§unacceptable¡¨ actions and be punished for it, further establishing my understanding of proper conduct. Allowing me to understand what is wrong at a young age becomes the foundation to which my future actions would be measured upon.

Bandura¡¦s second process is retention where you store mental representations of a behavior you have observed because you may not of had the chance to reproduce it (Weiten, 001). Many times while conversing with another person I would wait for a chance to utilize a type of behavior that I had previously observed and had been stored away in my memory because the right opportunity had not yet surfaced. My parents were the main influence to this type of behavior and I have grown accustomed to it through years of putting it into action. It is difficult to distinguish exactly what type of personality best explains who I am as a result of this because many times I do not present an honest representation of myself, for the most part I am only duplicating a behavioral trait that I had observed from another.

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The third process in Bandura¡¦s observational learning model is reproduction, which is the ability to reproduce your mental images into behavior (Weiten, 001). Often times I find myself imitating the actions of those that have been a great influence in my life, either in speech or in action. From as far back as I could remember I have always made an effort to reproduce ¡§popular¡¨ behavior that I was able to observe from others. This type of behavior may add to the lack of my own individual personality development because of my need not to further develop my own unique personality but to imitate what the current popular personality trait is. Having a mental image in my memory, according to Bandura, is by far a simpler task then that of actually reproducing it in behavior. Observing someone hitting a homerun in baseball and being able to hit one for yourself are worlds apart.

Bandura¡¦s final step in the process of observational learning is motivation. Motivation is the desire to have a pay off in a situation in order to reproduce an observed response (Weiten, 001). I am very unlikely to reproduce any form of an observed response if I knew that there was nothing to gain from doing so. I came to be this way by observing people who often times gain much from knowing what to do in order to reap the largest pay off. Why else would people act they way they do if their wasn¡¦t any rewards in doing so, be it popularity, money or to achieve some level respect amongst peers. I am driven by the fact that acting in a particular way increases by chances of a meaningful pay off. Just as a rewarding outcome can encourage people to reproduce an observed response, a negative pay off would equally deter them from reproducing it. It is human nature to avoid situations where you know the possibility of a negative outcome outweighs the chances of a positive outcome.

Bandura took a more cognitive approach when dealing with behaviorism. Although he did believe that the environment would define our personality, he did not believe that the environment was the only influence. He took a position called reciprocal determinism where apart from the environment influencing our behavior, our behavior also determines our environment (Weiten, 001). So in other words, both your behavior and your environment can determine your personality. I believe I am a very independent person but not because I was born with it but because the manner in which I was brought up instilled in me an independent nature. On the other side of the argument, the atmosphere around my household was very tense and therefore, acquiring a good sense of humor seemed far-fetched. My sense of humor seems to be mainly due to nature, where my humor is not credited to my surroundings but to my genes. Subsequently, it seems that my personality is not due to only my behavior or to my environment, but it is due to a combination of the two.

Sigmund Freud, often times referred to as the father of psychoanalysis, believed that a person¡¦s individual personality is determined from a very young age. In each of the 4 stages in Freud¡¦s psychosexual stages, the individual would have to face challenges. The manner in which these challenges were met with would determine the type of personality that would be developed. Freud¡¦s psychoanalytic stages consist of the oral stage, anal stage, phallic stage, and the latency and genital stage. Freud greatly emphasized how young children dealt with their immature yet strong sexual urges. Most of his research was centered on the sexual conflicts one would face, which depending on how it was handled, would result in a particular type of personality.

In close examination of my life to this date, using Freud¡¦s theory of development I can safely assume that I have overcome the oral stage of development. According to Freud, the handling of a child¡¦s feeding experiences is essential to the development of the child. Children who had difficulties in this stage, usually return to it in a later stage of their life and exhibit behaviors such as over eating, or smoking (Weiten, 001).

Freud¡¦s second stage in his theory is the anal stage, where the emphasis is on the pleasure a child derives from their bowel movements either through expulsion or retention (Weiten, 001). I grew up in a very strict household where my parent¡¦s expectations for myself were very high, anything less than an adequate performance was met with punishment. Inability to control my bowel movements quickly is an example of a less that adequate performance, therefore it would lead to punishment. This may possibly lead to a feeling of hostility towards my parents for their strict behavior and may account of my independent nature derived from isolating myself from the strict atmosphere.

The third stage in the theory of development is the phallic stage. According to Freud, around the age of 4 the genitals and self-stimulation become the main focus of children (Weiten, 001). In this stage, children develop a strong hostility towards their same sex parent that must be resolved if they are to identify adequately with that parent. Boys develop a sexual preference for their own mother and a hostile feeling towards their father whom the depict as the competitor they must compete against in order to gain the mother¡¦s attention (Weiten 001). Possibly due to my parents divorce, I do feel a strong need to achieve better success as an adult over my father in order to have love of my mother. Where my father failed to maintain the love of my mother, I have used as motivation to not fail but to succeed in sustaining the affection of my mother.

The final stage in Freud¡¦s theory is the latency and genital stage. From the age of six through puberty the child¡¦s sexual urges are suppressed until the actual stage of puberty. From here on, sexual preference once again surfaces but not towards ones own genitals but towards peers of the opposite sex (Weiten, 001). My sexual energy to date is aimed towards peers of the opposite sex. Although my sexual urges are not so out of control as to the risk of my own health, they are at a normal teenage level.

Hans Eysenck, a German psychologist believed, that a persons behavior was primarily based on people¡¦s genes. He believed that certain people were more susceptible to conditioning. During social situations when I am in the company of many unfamiliar faces I become fairly tentative and uneasy. Consequently, I spend the majority of my time conversing with people I am already well associated with. This allows me to avoid any uncomfortable feelings related situations involving first impressions. According to Eysnck, this type of behavior is referred to as introversion where a person¡¦s social discomfort compels them to turn inward. He believed that introverts have higher levels of physiological arousal, which allows them to be more easily conditioned. Being able to be conditioned easily increases the chances of acquiring more conditioned inhibitions than others (Weiten, 001).

So what is it? Is one¡¦s personality predetermined or is it through environmental influences? Freud believed that early childhood experiences and the methods in which people decided to deal with their sexual urges determine the outcome of their behavior whereas Eysnck believed that it is primarily to do with human genetics. Then there is Bandura who believes that it is more or less a combination of the two. Some of my behavioral traits can be linked to early childhood treatment and choices such as my independent nature. On the other hand other characteristics of my personality seem to take more of a genetic approach. In either case, the way I am and the process in which I came to be could have parallels with the methods of a wide range of psychologists. I should not limit the understanding of my personality to just one idea but to embrace the ideas of many.

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