Behaviourism and Personality

  • David Fontana


We now turn to the contributions that the last of the main forces in psychology, behaviourism, has made to the study of personality. Although behaviourism is no longer the pre-eminent force it once was within psychology, it is still claimed to be — together with its many offshoots and variants — the most objective and scientific approach within the subject, as it concerns itself not with the accounts people give of their own states of mind, but with observations of what they actually do (that is, of their behaviour). It shows little interest in the mechanisms that psychodynamic and humanistic psychology see as underlying personality. The problem with such things, behaviourists have traditionally argued, is that they are based largely on speculation rather than on the structured observation that characterises all good science. It is impossible to observe directly the unconscious processes postulated by Freud and others (or even to test their workings directly, as it is possible to do with qualities such as learning and remembering). Even the concept of personality traits is seen as being of value only if such traits are assessed by questionnaires designed to reveal how people typically behave in various key situations.


Conditioned Stimulus Conditioned Response Classical Conditioning Operant Conditioning Target Behaviour 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© David Fontana 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Fontana
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Cardiff UniversityUK
  2. 2.Liverpool John Moores UniversityUK

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