Behavioral perspectives on personality and self.
In much of contemporary psychology, a great deal of attention is paid to the study of personality, with a great many "theories of personality" (McCrae and Costa 1996). In contrast, fewer behavioral writers have developed theories specifically on this topic since this subject is not granted status as being separate and distinct from behavior in general (Watson 1919; Skinner 1953, 1974). Nevertheless, behavioral writers have addressed personality and other typically non-behavioral terms from a behavioral perspective, for instance, see Watson (1919), Skinner (1945, 1953), and Hayes (1984). This paper will attempt to compare and contrast traditional positions on personality and a related term, self, with behavioral perspectives on these concepts. The question of why these topics are important to contemporary behavior analysts is a legitimate one. Why should behavior analysts know about personality and self? Watson thought personality was worthy of an entire chapter on the theme of personality and disturbances thereof (Watson 1919); Skinner did not give the term personality as much direct attention, although one chapter in Science and Human Behavior analyzes the topic of traits. Skinner repeatedly addressed the concept of self (Skinner 1953, 1974), which he equated with personality. Skinner authored chapters on the subject of self in Science and Human Behavior (Skinner 1953), About Behaviorism (Skinner 1974), and in one of his last works Recent Issues in the Analysis of Behavior (Skinner 1989). Skinner attempted to address arguments that behavior analysis has neglected the study the topic of self: "It is often said that a science of behavior studies the human organism but neglects the person or self' (Skinner 1974, p. 184), and that introduction led to Skinner elucidating one of his discussions of the self. While it is true that the term personality is rarely used in the majority of contemporary behavior analytic literature (Vyse 2004), there are detailed discussions of these topics in the writings of Watson, Skinner, and other relevant theorists.
Traditional Views of Personality
In 1937, Gordon Allport catalogued some 50 definitions of personality (Allport 1937); despite the earlier work by other writers cited by Allport, the popular concept of personality as commonly described is the result of Allport, who has been termed the "inventor" of the concept of personality as popularly described in terms of traits (Nicholson 2003). Little has changed since Allport's initial writings except there are now more definitions and theories of personality; McCrae and Costa (1996) lamented that researchers had generated "dozens of mini-theories" (p. 53) and that questions regarding the number of basic dimensions of personality were still disputed and debated. Personality theories are grouped into either the nomothetic or the idiographic approach. The former represents an attempt to identify general characteristics or laws seen in individuals in general but on which individuals vary in quantifiable ways (Allport 1937). The idiographic approach attempts to identify or describe those aspects that make a person unique, and idiographic methodology is more likely to be qualitative than quantitative (Allport 1937). Regardless of the general approach, most such theories refer to internal or intrapsychic variables that in vaguely defined ways cause a person's behavior, but do not refer to personality as being behavior (Mischel 1968; Hayes et al. 1995; Pronko 1988). While one writer concluded that personality is a term "so resistant to definition and so broad in usage that no coherent simple statement about it can be made" (Reiber 1985, p. 533), other writers have attempted to define personality. Some typical definitions are "that which permits a prediction of what a person will do in a given situation" (Cattell 1950, p. 2) or "the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his characteristic behavior and thought" (Allport 1961, p. 28). Mischel (1968), who presented a behavioral view of personality, said that personality "is an abstraction or hypothetical construction from or about behavior, whereas behavior consists of observable events. Statements that deal with personality describe the inferred, hypothesized, mediating, internal states, structure, and organization of individuals" (p. 4). Pervin (1975) defined personality as "... those structural and dynamic properties of an individual or individuals as they reflect themselves in characteristic responses to situations" (p. 2).
Traits and States
Personality theories of the traditional view represent structural accounts of behavior (Sturmey et al. 2007), with the structures of personality being a collection of "traits" and/or "states." Personality traits have been defined in a number of ways, and different theorists equivocate on their causal status; one definition is "a collection of reactions or responses bound by some kind of unity which permits the responses to be gathered under one term" (Cattell 1946, p. 61) or as a "neuropsychic structure" (Allport 1961, p. 347). Allport (1966) also offered that "A trait has more than nominal existence ... and is dynamic, or at least determinative, in behavior" (p. 1). McCrae and Costa (1996, 2003) defined traits in a number of ways. McCrae and Costa (1996) stated that "Sophisticated personality theorists have never claimed that traits determine behavior independent of situational context, but they do claim a prominent role for forces within a person as part of the explanation of behavior" (p. 58). McCrae and Costa (2003) asserted that "We can define traits as dimensions of individual differences in tendencies to show consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings and actions" (p. 25). These writers then elaborated to add, "... traits often lead people to develop entirely new behaviors" (p. 28). McCrae and Costa (2003) offered another definition of traits with "Traits are endogenous basic tendencies that give rise to consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions" (p, 204-205). Revelle (2007) defined a trait as the average measures or the rate of change of a person's affect, behaviors, cognitions, and/or desires. Another definition of a trait would be as differences between individuals in terms of inclinations, styles, or tendencies to perform different modes or manners of behavior (Hamaker et al. 2007). Currently, the most widely cited view of trait theory is the "five-factor model," the FFM, with personality being adequately described with five traits: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness (McCrae and Costa (1996, 2003). These authors have argued that the FFM has ended the competition between rival trait theories (McCrae and Costa 2003), and furthermore, these five traits show considerable stability over time. In a 1982 paper, these researchers asserted that the personality of an individual at age 30 years is strong predictor of the individual's personality at age 80 years (McCrae and Costa 1982). McCrae and Costa (2003) concluded that research was arriving at a consensus of predominant stability in these traits throughout adulthood.
Behavioral theorists do not infer internal structures in an attempt to account for behavior, but look instead to the past or present environment to explain behavior (Skinner 1953, 1974). Skinner (1953) devoted a chapter to an analysis of traits; to Skinner, not surprisingly, traits are not causes of behavior. Traits are a means by which aspects of an individual's behavioral repertoire can be categorized, if done correctly. Skinner concluded that traits which could be traced to behavioral inventories, to the relative strengths of different response classes in the repertoire, and to the rapidity with which behavioral processes occurred constituted acceptable scientific analyses (Skinner 1953). A functional analysis of how many ways we could expect an individual to differ from others or from himself from one time to another would give behavioral equivalents of traits, but, Skinner argued, most of the researchers in traits at his time of writing quantified their data in much different ways. The tendency to describe individuals as having relative excesses or deficits in terms of trait adjectives did not advance any science of behavior and did not lead to anything, but descriptions and classifications. The prevailing tendency of listing descriptive adjectives for this or that individual never pointed to any variables for changing the behavior being described. "We do not change behavior by manipulating a trait" (Skinner 1953, p. 203). Mischel (1968) saw traits as hypothetical constructs; traits were described as "... categories of the observer who perceives and describes behavior and not necessarily properties of the observed behavior itself' (p. 68). A recent behavior analytic definition of a trait was as a preexisting or predisposing individual difference with relative degrees of stability, such as sex, intellectual strengths or deficits, or psychiatric conditions, that can also affect behavior (Odum and Baumann 2010).
Another way of examining traits was proposed by Vyse (2004), with his arguments that the traditional view of this subject and behavioral views might have some commonalities. Consider that McCrae and Costa (2003) defined traits as "... dimensions of individual differences in tendencies to show consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions" (p. 25) and "The consistent patterns that indicate traits must be seen over time as well as across situations" (p. 28). Behavioral theorists would likely re-define McCrae and Costa's terms as being response classes and repertoires displaying behavioral momentum (Nevin 1992); that is to say, under the right circumstances, behavior will show stability over time and context (Vyse 2004). Molar behavior theory as proposed by Baum (2002, 2005) and Rachlin's teleological behavioral theory (Rachlin 1992, 1994, 2007) propose that units of behavior are not discrete responses but instead are activities that are extended over time (Baum 2002, 2005) and these activities can only be seen as being meaningful over extended timeframes (Rachlin 1994). These views of behavior as being a prolonged activity are relevant to this discussion of traits. Molar behaviorism and teleological behaviorism's view of extended patterns of behavior show a considerable degree of generalization with how theorists like McCrae and Costa (2003) discuss the consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions indicative of traits. Where traditional and behavioral theorists would disagree is upon the locus of the stabilizing variables. Behavioral theorists would point to the behavioral stability and consistency as being due to multiple sources of environmental control, all contributing to the stable behavior, whereas personality theories would infer that the sources of the stability are essential characteristics of the person themselves (Vyse 2004).
Lastly, the component of personality referred to as a state is given considerably less attention and is not a cause of behavior. Cattell (1957) is typically credited as drawing a distinction between states and traits. States are recurrent, transient measures; Cattell (1957) defined a state as "a level in a pattern of reactive characteristics (the latter not being present in the given form and level all the time) which reappears from time to time" (p. 633). Hamaker et al. (2007) discussed states as being instances of intraindividual variability; to these researchers, states are relatively rapid and reversible changes in personality measures. States may be correlated with the exogenous environment, such as the social and physical situation, or the internal environment, such as physiological, emotional, and cognitive processes taking place within the individual (Hamaker et al. 2007). Revelle (2007) defined a state as the transient measures of variables such as affect, desires, and cognitions at any given time. Lastly, from a behavior analytic perspective, a state is not a structural component of a personality but instead as an environmental manipulation or operation that can affect behavior over a short time horizon (Odum and Baumann 2010).
Much of psychology argues that personality and its components are an independent variable, a literal cause of behavior (Cattell 1950; Staats 1993a, b). Cattell's definition of personality points to this concept being a predictor of behavior; prediction points to correlation, which may or may not be an instance of causation. Other definitions of personality indicate a stronger argument for personality causing behavior (Allport 1961; McCrae and Costa 1995). Behavior, in contrast, is studied only for what it reveals about non-observable, inferred constructs, said to be inside the person (Skinner 1953). The presence of any such non-observable structures is only inferred from behavior, never observed independent of behavior (Baum 2005), yet these structures are then used to explain the same behavior (Skinner 1974). If behavior changes, structural accounts conjecture that the underlying structures or variables were changed and the changes in the inferred structure explain the observed behavior change (Skinner 1974; Sturmey et al. 2007).
To conclude that a hypothetical construct (such as personality) exists independent of behavior as well as arguing that the construct is a cause of behavior is an instance of committing the fallacy of reification (Mill 1843/1874). That is to say, traditional personality theorists have turned personality into a thing, a noun. Scientific theory attempts to establish correlations between words, concepts, and empirical observations. In cases where reification is occurring, the relation between the concept and the empirical observation is assumed to exist (Blackburn 1994). Besides being a likely reification, personality seems to be viewed and emphasized disproportionately by many theorists. The weight given to biological factors relative to environmental variables have waxed and waned over the decades of studying human behavior (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1989; Kuo 1967; Moore 2002, 2009a, b; Pinker 2002; Watson 1919; Wilson and Hermstein 1985). Personality, on the other hand, has been emphasized as a cause of behavior to the point that theorists proposed a field of personology, a systematic, comprehensive, idiographic approach to the study of the individual, separate and distinct from psychology (Holt 1962; Murray 1938). Why is there such an emphasis on personality? In 1953, Skinner pointed out the common tendency for theorists to look for inner causes of behavior such as personality. If one observes another individual with the tendency to be obsessed or preoccupied with observing themselves in the mirror, an adjective is assigned to such behavior, "narcissistic"; the adjective then becomes a noun, "narcissism." The noun is reified into an entity or a thing, a personality or a trait that is argued to be the cause of the initial behavior in question (Skinner 1953). Many psychologists, at a loss to identify an antecedent event to correlate with a person's behavior, turn the search to the person's interior, and if that search is not productive, they invent one and name it something like "will power" or "extraversion" (Rachlin 2007).
Based on the assumed inner causation, with personality as a cause of behavior, any therapeutic interventions must be directed at the personality or other structure as cause (Sturmey et al. 2007), not directed at behavior as effect. One reasonable conclusion is that since the plethora of theories of personality draw inferences as to the cause of behavior, any therapies need to be customized to fit the inferred structures. Such theories are the basis for many of the classic psychotherapies such as the psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, object relations, and humanistic therapies. Personality theory is not a mere academic or theoretical interest, personality theories are the basis for clinical training programs with orientations other than that of the cognitive behavioral or behavioral paradigm. The different versions of personality theory and the resultant psychotherapies provide justification for each other (Alexander 1948; Rogers 1959; Mahler 1976).
Psychology and the Self
Since they are not a common basis for psychotherapies, psychological theories of the self are less prominent, yet they too refer to differing versions and numbers of reified entities. The self has been defined as "a social and cognitive construction" (Harter 2007, p. 506). Theory about the self can be traced to William James (1890, 1892) with his distinction between the I-self which was an actor-agent, a subject, a knower, and the Me-Self, as an object, something that was known. Contemporary theorists argue that each of these types of self is argued to consist of still other components; the I-Self was composed of "self-awareness," and "self-agency," amongst others, and the Me-Self consisted of a "material me," a "social me," and a "spiritual me" (Harter 2007). Harter goes on to say, "The distinction between the I-Self and the Me-Self has proved amazingly viable and is a recurrent theme in many theoretical treatments of the self' (Harter 2007, p. 508). Other theorists have added still more elaborations to the self, with the concepts of an "individual self," a "relational self," as well as a "collective self' (Sedikides and Brewer 2001). Theories of self as these are also structural accounts of behavior as indicated by the statement such as, "We assume that these three self-representations coexist within the same individual" (Sedikides and Brewer 2001, p. 2). Accounts of the self such as these bear resemblance to the terminology devoted to "dissociative identity disorder" that are inferred from the behaviors of individuals who are assigned this diagnostic label (APA 1994, 2000, 2013). For instance, James argued that the multiplicity of selves may not speak with the same voice and that there could be harmonious relations between the selves or discordance and schisms (James 1890). A century later, Sedikides and Brewer (2001) stated, "There is considerably less agreement, however, about the nature of the interrelations among the three self-representations. Are the individual, the relational, and the collective self, close partners, bitter opponents or indifferent acquaintances?" (p. 2).
Behavioral Perspectives on Personality
As long as some psychologists have argued for the stance known as behaviorism, behaviorists have had starkly different views in comparison to traditional theories on how to characterize personality. In contrast to traditional psychology's theories of personality, fewer behavioral theorists have written extensively about the behaviors of personality (Mischel 1968; Phelps 2000; Skinner 1953, 1974, Staats 1993a, b, 1996, 2003; Vyse 2004). Nevertheless, detailed behavioral discussions of the topic exist. Watson and Skinner both devoted chapters and analyses in major works to the topic of personality or self, as did other writers (Skinner 1953, 1974, 1989; Watson 1919). From a behavioral perspective, because personality is behavior, other writings are pertinent without specifically addressing personality or granting privileged status to personality. If one accepts that, from a behavioral perspective, personality is behavior, behavioral theory subsumes personality theory. Thus, personality is not a neglected topic in behavioral writings; it is a dependent variable, behavior to be explained itself rather than seen as a cause of behavior (Skinner 1974). For instance, Watson (1919) stated the following:
we use the term personality or character as a convenient way of expressing the fact that we are looking at the individual not from the standpoint of how well or how poorly any particular emotion, instinct or group of habits may function, but from that of how the organism as a whole works or may work under changed conditions, (p. 392).
Watson followed this definition with an extensive discussion of what he termed a "behavioristic and commonsense conception of personality" (Watson 1919, p. 396) and how the sampling of various behaviors (activity levels, as well as social, manual, laryngeal, and visceral habits and response tendencies) could be conducted. Watson described the study of personality as being akin to an ethogram, i.e., a behavioral inventory of the learned/acquired and species-typical behaviors of a human (Immelmann and Beer 1989) with individual differences in acquired behaviors, and not surprisingly, concluded that the study of personality belongs in the laboratory.
In a behavior analytic account, Skinner (1953) made the point that personality and/or the self is said to be responsible for features of behavior and seen this way, had to be addressed as an explanatory fiction. Instead of a cause of behavior, personality was behavior (Skinner 1953); personalities represent "topographical subdivisions of behavior", and a personality was "tied to a particular type of occasion--when a system of responses is organized around a given discriminative stimulus" (p. 285). Skinner proposed that the behaviors we call personality would be different as a function of deprivation of food or after satiation. During emotional behaviors, the behavior of personality will be seen to be different, and an individual's personality repertoire will be different under the influence of drugs. Some 20 years later, Skinner (1974) echoed his prior position: "a self or personality is at best a repertoire of behavior imparted by an organized set of contingencies" (p. 149). In another instance, Skinner argued that "Complex contingencies of reinforcement create complex repertoires, and, as we have seen, different contingencies create different persons within the same skin, of which so called multiple personalities are only an extreme manifestation" (Skinner 1974, p. 185).
Other Behavioral Views on Personality
Behavioral theorists from other perspectives also see personality as behavior. Interbehavioral theorists have defined personality, as Kantor (1924) wrote, "we cannot consider personality to be anything more than the individual's particular series of reaction systems to specific stimuli" (p. 75). In comparable terms, Pronko (1980) defined personality as "the total series of a given individual's interactions with the relevant stimulus objects" (p. 201). In addition, the paradigmatic or psychological behaviorism of Arthur Staats has given the topic of personality extensive attention. Staats (1993a, b) discussed personality as "The individual's original learning experiences, up to the present life situation, are considered to produce his or her personality ... personality is composed of specifiable, learned behaviors" (p. 10). Staats critiqued traditional personality theory as being "mixed-up" by including Skinner's analysis of behavior. Staats further asserted that Skinner rejected and never addressed the concept of personality and that radical behaviorists tend to ignore personality by following Skinner (Staats 2003).
Staats has attempted to dismiss Skinner's relevance on a number of occasions (1993a, b, 1996, 2003) and argued for the superiority of his position: a personality is composed of three basic behavioral repertoires (BBRs), which are an emotional-motivational repertoire, a language-cognitive repertoire, and a sensorimotor repertoire, with each representing an extensive class of learned behaviors (Staats 2003). Staats' emotional-motivational repertoire can be characterized as a response class composed of both unconditioned and conditioned behaviors; Staats elaborated on these as being specific yet transient emotional responses that are a function of the appearance or removal of a stimulus. In addition, various affect-eliciting events can elicit a series of interrelated emotional responses that persist over time or what he termed an "emotional state." Lastly, an individual can acquire emotional responses to classes of stimuli that are functionally related as in a person who experiences positively or negatively valenced emotional responses to religious, political, or nationalistic images or words. This latter response class characterized an emotional-motivational trait (Staats 2003). Staats makes the argument that any human will acquire an exceedingly intricate emotional-motivational repertoire that is a significant component of personality.
Staats' concept of a language-cognitive repertoire can be summarized as the individual's learned behaviors to use words to label verbally events and behaviors, to use words and rules to respond to and be controlled by events, and by which the individual could control oneself. Staats makes the point that one's "self-concept" is composed of words learned to label the individual's own functional stimuli arising from an individual's own behaviors. Staats (2003) concluded that "the self-concept, (composed of learned words) is an important aspect of personality because the individual reasons, plans and decides depending on those words ..." (p. 148).
Lastly, Staats' discussed the concept of the sensorimotor repertoire as an aspect of personality. Staats argues that sensorimotor repertoires function as acquired personality traits, either in part or completely. To be a physically aggressive person necessitates having sensorimotor behaviors composing such behaving. Being described as a "dependent person" likely indicates some behavioral deficits in terms in terms of repertoires such as physical assertiveness, resource procurement, or responding to tasks with significant complexity or response effort. An individual who has acquired sensorimotor abilities and skills revered in a given group is likely to be described as being confident or possibly arrogant. Such an individual would have resultant differences in their emotional-motivational and language-cognitive repertoires due to this social recognition, illustrating that the different repertoires interact with each other (Staats 2003). Staats concludes that personality is behavior, and it is not a cause of other behavior. One's personality is a product of experience and learning, if one accepts his concept of basic behavioral repertoires as being analogous to response classes. This, however, is not the only way to characterize Staats' position. For one contrarian view, Plaud (1995) critiqued the psychological behaviorism of Staats. Plaud concluded that Staats had mischaracterized the empirical data supporting the efficacy of behavior analysis and had caricatured its breadth and depth, and that the concepts of BBRs were unnecessary, intervening variables. In a number of his writings, Staats (1993a, b, 2003) asserted that the behavior of an individual, his or her personality, was a function of various organismic and situational variables with the BBRs mediating the organismic with the environmental factors, an approach that is Hullian and laden with intervening variables (Plaud 1995).
Behavioral Perspectives on Self
A behavior analytic perspective on the self asserts that a self is an abstraction derived from relations amongst different repertoires and response classes of the individual: "a device for representing a functionally unified system of responses" (Skinner 1953, p. 285). Skinner (1953) posed the question, "What is meant by the self in self-control or self-knowledge? When a man jams his hands into his pockets to keep himself from biting his nails, who is controlling whom?" (p. 283). Skinner answered his own query: one class of responses was being used to control another. For Skinner, the typical view of the self is an explanatory fiction, a hypothetical cause of action by the individual:
So long as external variables go unnoticed or are ignored, their function is assigned to an originating agent within the organism. If we cannot show what is responsible for a man's behavior, we say that he himself is responsible for it (Skinner 1953, p. 283).
Skinner discussed how to exert or demonstrate self-control in a number of ways, none of which included the self as originating agent. Skinner (1953, 1989) discussed the ways in which a person could be said to have self-control, self-knowledge and be said to have different selves. Skinner (1989) devoted a chapter to the topic and the environmental contingencies responsible for different usages of this term. Skinner asked, "Under what verbal contingencies of reinforcement ... do we observe our self and report what we are doing? An organism seldom behaves effectively without responding to its own body" (p. 29). The self of self-observation is the result of different contingencies including modeling, since to behave as a model one has to engage in behavior that can easily be imitated. Vocalizations under operant control make it easier to tell others what to do as well as show them, leading an individual to have higher probabilities to see and talk about what they themselves were doing. Some psychotherapies exert more explicit contingencies for self-observation as when individuals are asked to become aware of how many punitive or anxiety-provoking statements a person may utter to themselves in a given day (Skinner 1989).
Skinner (1989) also discussed the self as used in self-esteem or the confident self, which results from behavior being given positive reinforcement from others and resultant bodily feelings occurring to the individual receiving the reinforcement. The confident self has had frequent positive reinforcement for behaviors performed easily and seemingly effortlessly. The responsible self is the outcome of a culture exerting control with aversive consequences such as punishments for unwanted behavior and escape-avoidance contingencies to strengthen desired behavior. To "be responsible," members of the community are reinforced for behavior such that the culture does not have to exert frequent aversive control. The self that is a rational self refers to our ability to generate rules to control and explain our behavior to others and ourselves as in rule-governed behavior (Skinner 1969, 1989).
In another noteworthy behavior analytic discussion of self, Keller and Schoenfeld (1950) proposed that the self consisted of relations amongst different behaviors of an individual and observations of one's behaviors. These writers described the self as "a word that is meant to designate the ability to speak of (be 'aware' of) one's own behavior, or the ability to use one's own behavior as the [S.sup.D] for further behavior, verbal or otherwise" (p. 369). "The 'Self,' in short, is the person, his body and behavior and characteristic interactions with the environment, taken as the discriminative objects of his own verbal behavior" (p. 369). "The 'Self' arises out of discrimination training and out of verbal behavior" (p. 369). Keller and Schoenfeld asserted that two things could be deduced from the fact that the self is the result of discrimination training and its effects on verbal behavior. First, that "a child starts out in life without a 'Self,' and must build one up through...a continuous learning process" (p. 369), and secondly, "a person possessing no verbal behavior of any sort would not have a 'Self' ..." (p. 370).
A logical next step in a review such as this could be to reference the literature of relational frame theory (RFT) and its discussion of the self might seem like a natural progression. It is true that RFT has a detailed analysis of the self and its different types, and the proponents of RFT purport their position to be an extension of Skinner's analysis of verbal behavior (Barnes-Holmes et al. 2001; Skinner 1957; Torneke 2010). This proposition, however, is disputed (Moore 2009b); even its supporters admit that RFT has generated "... considerable controversy and debate" (Dymond et al. 2010, p. 97). This citation analysis by Dymond et al. (2010) pointed out that most of the literature regarding RFT was of a nonempirical-theoretical nature. Until RFT does establish itself firmly with additional empirical studies, it will likely remain controversial and including it in a review of behavioral literature would be a matter of debate. As a result, the RFT analysis of the self is not included in this review.
To summarize the behavioral view of self, this term is used to describe the individual's ability to tact his or her own behavior, body, and internal states (Keller and Schoenfeld 1950). Skinner argues that the self is the outcome of reinforcement contingencies, enforced by others for us to observe and report on our behavior. We can learn to be more acute in our observations of our behaviors and states by specifically arranged contingencies to gain self-knowledge. We feel specific emotional states due to environmental contingencies; we arrange other contingencies amongst our different behaviors to control our self and to be self-responsible (Skinner 1953, 1989). Behavioral perspectives on self do not view this concept as any sort of reified entity, as do many other theorists of the self (Harter 2007). To behavioral theorists, the self is a learned ability to make observations about one's body, internal states, and behaviors or to refer to relations amongst one's different behavioral repertoires (Keller and Schoenfeld 1950; Skinner 1953, 1974, 1989). The self is merely a means to describe "... a functionally unified system of responses" (Skinner 1953, p. 285) and controlling contingencies.
The behavioral views of personality can be summarized as follows: Behavioral theorists interpret personality as being learned behavior, with some contributions from the history of the species (Skinner 1953, 1974; Staats 2003; Watson 1919). Behavioral theorists do not conclude that personality is composed of inferred structures, although Staats does admit intervening variables into his unique conceptualization (Staats 2003), and behavioral theorists do not conclude that personality is a cause of other behavior (Skinner 1953, 1974; Staats 2003; Watson 1919). If, however, the traits that are argued to compose personality are merely a means of describing stable, consistent behavior over extended timeframes, the views of theorists such as McCrae and Costa (2003) are not wholly incompatible with molar behavior theory as well as teleological behavior theory (Baum 2002, 2005; Rachlin 1992; Vyse 2004).
Evaluating the Different Perspectives
This review summarized traditional views of personality and the positions of behavioral writers on this and the related topic, the self. Behavioral views are as different here from traditional psychology as in many accounts of human behavior. How does one attempt to evaluate or compare such different positions? In 1942, Gordon Allport made arguments regarding how to evaluate differing theoretical positions to explain and understand individuals. Any theoretical account should have the criteria of (1) completeness; the account should conform with as many facts about an individual as possible. A theoretical account should have (2) economy or parsimony; it should be made with as few assumptions as possible. (3) The theoretical account must have consistency throughout its various principles. (4) Any theoretical account must have predictive power; predictions must be possible, and the account must be testable, and compatible with other scientific findings (Allport 1942). A point-by-point evaluation of traditional personality and self theories relative to behavioral perspectives on these topics would constitute another review itself but a brief attempt to apply Allport's arguments is possible here.
Applying Allport's criteria, the behavioral positions clearly have fewer assumptions, meeting one of Allport's criteria. It can be argued that behavioral positions are complete and consistent (Skinner 1974); however, the critics of behaviorism have disputed this assertion (Stich 1988). Behavioral theory on personality and self are variations on typical behavior theory, Skinner (1988) stated the claims of behavior analysis based on laboratory findings were testable and falsifiable, meeting another criteria of Allport. Skinner (1988) argued that the laboratory data of behavior analysis led to concepts and principles which were useful for interpreting behavior outside the laboratory. Behavior analytic and other behavior views of personality and self are best put in Skinner's latter category, principles extrapolated from laboratory data that are useful for understanding behavior. Behavior analytic and related viewpoints can be regarded as a empirical or theoretical body of knowledge with broad scope, that is increasingly cumulative and growing, and with a more parsimonious perspective on more aspects of human behavior, including personality and the self, than are widely known.
Acknowledgments The author wants to acknowledge the invaluable comments provided by Steven Lawyer, Charles Lyons and Stuart Vyse, as well as the constructive comments from the reviewers on an earlier version of this article.
Published online: 17 January 2015
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B. J. Phelps ([mail])
Department of Psychology, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD 57007, USA
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|Title Annotation:||THEORETICAL ARTICLE|
|Author:||Phelps, Brady J.|
|Publication:||The Psychological Record|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2015|
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