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Compare and Contrast Skinner’s Perspective on Personality Development to Freud’s.

Psychoanalytic theories try to explain human behavior by considering how various aspects of a person’s character interact with one another. Sigmund Freud started this movement. According to Freud, it was possible to channel one’s psychological energy into one’s actions (Mahoney, 2019). He reasoned this based on transforming thermal energy into mechanical work. The theory focuses on the ever-changing nature of unconscious psychological tensions. However, behaviorist explanations of personality focus on how external factors influence actions. B.F. Skinner is credited with creating this line of thinking. He proposed a theory emphasizing how organisms and their surroundings influence one another. This paper will compare and contrast Skinner’s perspective on personality development with Freud’s.

Both provide an Explanation and comprehension of the complexities of human behavior. When comparing Freud’s and Skinner’s respective approaches, it becomes clear that Freud’s hypothesis is more concerned with the internal workings of the human mind, while Skinner’s is more concerned with how people appear to others (Raphaeli, 2019). The psychodynamic method delves into the motivations behind an individual’s behavior by exploring his unconscious drives and longings. The social perspective dismisses this emphasis on the mind’s inner workings and instead places emphasis on the observable manner of behaving, which may also be evaluated objectively. Character types vary from person to person, resulting in a wide range of actions and behaviors (Hill, 2019). These traits shape the human manner of behaving. For instance, extroverts are likelier to participate in social activities like gatherings than introverts. Studying human behavior has a significant impact on helping people with mental health and social difficulties. It has also contributed to developments in areas including youth education, the authoritative behavior of executives, and public health.

They both thought encouraging good behavior should involve a reinforcement and deterrence system. As an illustration, Freud theorized that a child’s moral and selfless superego was formed in response to parental praise and discipline. Based on our experiences in the world, the ego regulates our desires and impulses, or id (Henriques, 2018). Based on his major role in operant conditioning, which is modifying behavior through reinforcement (positive or negative), Skinner believed that desirable behavior could be raised through a system that offered positive reinforcement, rewards, and punishment.

Freud and Skinner contrast in their approach and their conclusions regarding the durability of behavior change. The founder of psychoanalysis, Freud, believed that a person’s id, ego, and superego contributed to their actions. He believed that children would continue to act in the way that had been modeled for them by parents and society (Solms, 2018). While some believed that the reinforced operant behavior would persist indefinitely without further reinforcement, Skinner disagreed. He reasoned that if reinforcement were suddenly stopped, the reinforced behavior would fade away, but if reinforcement were given at irregular intervals, the link between the desired personality and the “reward” would strengthen. The extinction effect could be prevented (Hill, 2019). In sum, Freud thought the desired behavior would eventually become ingrained in one’s personality, negating the need for further behavior modification, while Skinner held that one must constantly reinforce the behavior to maintain the effects of operant conditioning.

Skinner disagreed with Freud’s view that our childhood experiences significantly impact who we become as adults (Raphaeli, 2019). In contrast to Freud’s theory, he maintained that personality emerges gradually throughout a person’s life. According to Skinner, there is more room for change in an individual’s personality over time since our responses might shift as we encounter new situations.

According to Skinner, the study of psychology ought to center on quantifiable behavioral traits rather than abstract concepts like personality. His theory suggests that studying how people behave should be the primary goal of neuroscience. The proponents of the social school argue that it is possible to inspire any desired behavior by manipulating one’s surroundings (Solms, 2018). The current understanding of how people adopt new behaviors relies heavily on studies of brain activity. According to this theory, learning occurs when a response of the will is either strengthened or weakened depending on the quality of the results it produces. Skinner was interested in how climate change will affect behavior. To focus on operant molding, even with research center animals, he used the well-known ‘Skinner box,’ a chamber with profoundly regulated circumstances (Henriques, 2018). Skinner defined the interaction in which a reinforcement increased the possibility that it would be recalled as occurring before the behavior. Therefore, according to Skinner’s calculations, the persona is a collection of habits ingrained through time.

Freud proposed that all humans go through the five stages of personality development: the oral, butt-centric, phallic, idleness, and genital periods. He believed that adolescent traumatic experiences could set the foundation for particular compulsions later in life (Solms, 2018). Maladjustment in adulthood can also be caused by over or under-satisfying a child’s desires. He additionally proposed that people will typically use unaware strategies known as protection devices to deal with anxiety. Constraint, relapse, defense, sublimation, and other coping mechanisms are all examples of safeguards. However, Skinner acknowledged that a cycle termed support may motivate the optimum behavior.


Henriques, G. (2018). The Tree of Knowledge System and the Theoretical Unification of Psychology. Review of General Psychology7(2), 150–182.


Mahoney, M. J. (2019). Psychoanalysis and Behaviorism. Psychoanalytic Therapy and Behavior Therapy, pp. 303–325.

Solms, M. L. (2018). The Neurobiological Underpinnings of Psychoanalytic Theory and Therapy. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, p. 12.


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