Freud, Jung and Skinner Personality Theories

Sigmund Freud, B. F. Skinner, and Carl Jung each had different outlooks on how we develop individual personality. According to B. F. Skinner we can explain differences in individual personalities without traits but based on each persons individual histories and experiences with punishment and reinforcement. [Davis & Palladino 2007] Skinner who was strongly influenced by Edward Thorndike and John B. Watson believed in behaviorism as a theory of personality.

Skinner sought to pinpoint the stimuli that could control behavior. By using positive and negative reinforcement Skinner was able to condition his subjects under the basis that reinforcement makes it more likely that the target behavior will occur more often. Skinner explained more complex behaviors with another form of operant conditioning called shaping.

Shaping is done by withholding reinforcement until the subjects behavior gets closer to the target response. Critics of behaviorism may find that it seems to say that we are all nothing more than inner voices sitting back while our behavior and environment control everything.

However no one can dismiss the fact that for most of us our histories and past experiences have somehow influenced our present situations and attitudes, some more than others.

Sigmund Freud was a neurologist that developed a theory on personality (psychodynamic theory) that emphasized unconscious factors. The basic concepts of Freud's theory are Psychic determinism, instincts, and levels of consciousness. Psychic determinism is the influence the past has on the present.

Instincts, the driving forces within us, two of which Freud described. Eros for life-giving and pleasure producing activities including sex, and thanatos for aggression and destruction. The three levels of consciousness were conscious, referring to your present thoughts and desires you're currently aware of; preconscious which are thoughts and emotions waiting to be pulled into the conscious; and the unconscious which consists of thoughts and feelings we are not even aware of having.

Freud believed the unconscious was most important because it drove many of our behaviors without our conscious knowledge.

Freud believed there were three separate but interacting areas of the mind [David &Palladino 2007].

“The Id- which is the primitive biological side of our personalities, according to Freud's theory it is selfish, seeking only pleasure it has no need or concern for others or society. The Id is completely unconscious and operates on the pleasure principal.

The Ego- which is the area that reins in the Id's relentless demands for instant gratification. Freud believed it operated on the reality principal it handles the realistic planning for executing the Id's wishes. The ego is able to tolerate delay and frustration.

The Superego- is the moralistic and idealistic area which punishes behaviors that violate society's rules with guilt or anxiety, and rewards behavior meeting idealistic expectations. It aims for what is correct and ideal.” [Davis &Palladino 2007]

Freud proposed that individual personality develops through stages from infancy to adulthood.

  • The oral stage from birth to 18 months
  • The anal stage end of oral to 3 years
  • Phallic (genitals) stage end of anal to 6 years
  • Latency stage end of phallic stage to onset of puberty
  • Genital stage adolescence to adulthood

Freud called these stages psycho sexual stages. Many of Freud's critics refused to believe that such young children could be sexual creatures. Some might even consider that his own personal childhood may have played a part in Freud's emphasis on sexuality. Freud grew up during the Victorian era, a time when sex was not openly discussed it's possible he sought to bring sexuality out into the open.

One Freud critic in particular was Carl Jung, who developed his own psycho dynamic viewpoint. Unlike Freud, Jung believed in a generalized life force, without a strong emphasis on sexuality. Jung emphasized the future and the unconscious even more so than Freud. “Jung suggested a collective unconscious which contained images shared by all people. He called these archetypes, which are passed along genetically and cause us to respond to our environment in different ways.” [Davis & Palladino 2007]

Some of the archetypes Jung proposed were the persona (mask of true personality), anima and animas (feminine and masculine characteristics), shadow (basic instincts or dark side of the personality), and self (part that provides unity and stability among the different aspects of personality.

Jung also proposed the concept of introversion and extroversion; those who are introverts are focused inward on themselves while extroverts are focused outwards in their environment. [Davis & Palladino 2007]