Personality Essay Example

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Personality psychology is one of the many branches of psychology. It deals with the processes that are undertaken to understand the nature of human personality traits and the variations that do exist among individuals. It is centered on deciphering the major psychological processes in an individual, investigating the psychological differences that exist in different people, and understanding human nature and the psychological similarities and differences between individuals. Personality is often described as the habitual behavior exhibited by a person that can be used to predict their reactions to other people, problems, and stress (Krauskopf and Saunders, 1994). There are tons of theories that have been put forward in an attempt to give explanations as to how personality is developed and the psychological processes involved in its development. Among the major, widely recognized theories are the behaviorist theory, the cognitive approach to personality theory and the social learning theory. The social learning theory is often considered as a bridge between the traditional behaviorist theory and the cognitive learning theory. This essay is, therefore, dedicated to exploring the ideas proposed by these three theories in relation to personality development and to showing how the social learning theory by Bandura connects both the behaviorist learning methods and cognitive methods through attention, motivation and memory.

The social learning theory put forward by Bandura suggests that people learn from one another by way of observation, imitation, and modeling. This implies that human behavior is learned mostly observationally through modeling (Bandura, 1977). Modeling involves the art of apprenticeship whereby an individual observes how an activity is being carried out and they, through reproduction of the functional processes they observed, reproduce the same actions and results as was observed. Bandura proposed that an individual is likely to pick ideas on how to perform a certain thing by just observing other people’s behavior as they go about the activity in question. This new idea of the observed behavior is recorded in the mind and decoded at later times to act as the template from which the action is copied. This theory is limited to the human memory that is forgetful and different in different people as such, suggests that the acquired personality will depend on how well one can remember the ideas that they observed.

Traditional behaviorists had an almost similar idea of how personality develops. They believe in hard evidence, that is, the scientific proof behind the proceeds of an action. Their learning theory supports B. F. Skinner’s ideas of conditioned behavior where an introduced stimulus will elicit a response that with reinforcement, either positive or negative, becomes an individual’s habitual behavior and hence their personality (Skinner, 1974). This means that human behavior is the reaction to specific physical stimuli that elicits a response which is manifested as the habitual behavioral patterns showcased by an individual. This theory relies heavily on the environmental factors as the key determinants of personality. It gives no references to the application of mental processes in determining the nature of human personality.

The cognitive approaches to personality is a new and evolving psychological aspects used in deciphering the ideals of personality development. Cognitive approaches mean the proceeds of the mind and its deductions. It holds that internal factors are the shapers of personality. These factors are the mind processes that are used to determine how an individual behaves when faced with certain situations. The mind processes in question are the series of brain activities and functions that are involved in the thought processes. The thought processes in this case include the generation of thought, its perception, and analysis. These processes oversee the development of thoughts that determine human behavior. It is an area in psychology that is used to study human and animal behavior alike. The areas of the brain are studied as a stimulus is introduced and the chemical released in the brain during the process are studied to enable the experts to deduce the mental processes involved in personality development and the kind of thinking patterns that shape our personality. This theory, therefore, places emphasis on the cognitive patterns in the brain processes as the determinants of human behavior and consequently their personality’s

Bandura in the development of the social learning theory capitalized on the idea of modeling. This involves copying what is observed in the behaviors of others. For the observed personality trait to manifest itself as a behavioral pattern in an individual, certain requirements must be met. These requirements are the necessary conditions for effective modeling as was proposed by Bandura and they include attention, retention, reproduction and motivation (J. L., 2015). He further outlined that attention can be increased or decreased by factors such as the distinctiveness, affecting valence, prevalence, complexity and functional value of the behavior being observed. This is also the determining factor of the success of the observed behavior as it determines how much of the observed behavior will be remembered and thus reproduced by an individual. Bandura finally proposed that motivation is the key initiator of the manifestation of the observed behavior in terms of giving reason to one to reproduce and model the behavior in question.

In carrying out any observation be it for research purposes or as a recreational activity, maintaining high levels of attention is important. This is applicable too in Bandura’s personality development process as an individual should portray high levels of alertness while observing others behavior to effectively pick the functional values of the behavior in question. The information acquired should be retained by the individual and this involves the interplay of symbolic coding, mental images, cognitive organization and motor and symbolic rehearsal. The retained information should be effectively reproduced physically as a replica of the originally observed act and the reproduction is mainly based on a pressing reason also referred to as the motivation behind the need to imitate. According to Bandura, all these three elements must be present to ensure personality development.

Bandura’s social learning theory makes inferences to the cognitive, behavioral, and environmental influences as the key factors that help shape an individual’s personality. The inference to behavior and environment as factors determining personality trait is a deduction from ideas propagated by traditional behaviorism. Among the postulates made by behaviorism as a doctrine is the proposition that human behavior is not at all linked in any way to the internal psychological processes (Graham, 2015). It suggests that the sources of human behavior are eternal, that is, in the environment and not from the mind. This forms the basis of the psychological behaviorism, also referred to as radical behaviorism. This type of behaviorism brings into play the interaction between external physical stimuli, responses, learning histories, and reinforcement in certain cases. This behaviorist learning method implies that human behavior is mostly determined by the environmental factors surrounding them. The action that is the distinctive behavior occurs in response to external stimuli which in Bandura’s social learning theory will be the motivation to model certain observed behavior.

For example, when a person is walking down a street and suddenly there is an explosion ahead of them. The normal response by everyone near the explosion area will be to run for the hills. Supposed the individual had not seen the explosion, he will first notice the rushed flow of people coming to him. By observing this unusual movement by the people, he will deduce that there is danger ahead and head back as everyone is doing. In this scenario, according to the behaviorists, the explosion is the physical external stimuli that elicit a response which is the backward flow of individuals. According to the Bandura this external stimulus is the motivation that makes the person imitate the people coming to him and avert danger by going back from where he came from. It basically shows that Bandura’s social learning theory picks from the behaviorists learning theory by way of factoring in the environment as a determinant of personality.

In order to effectively model the observed behavior that one picks from other people, an individual should bring in the aspects of attention, retention and reproduction: the other essential elements to effective modeling. This can only occur in a mindset as the ideals of paying attention, decoding and encoding information, and being able to store and reproduce it involves some brain processes. This, therefore, brings into focus the mental processes that are the basis of the cognitive approaches to personality. The cognitive approaches to personality mainly deduce that people are who they are because of the way they think and how they attend to information. This implies that the content of the mind, and hence, internal mindsets and processes are what determine a persons’ behavior and as a result their personality. Cognitive learning methods suggest that individuals have habitual thinking patterns that manifest in the form of behavior that are characterized as personality (Wilderdom, 2015). Therefore, changing an individual’s thinking patterns will greatly change their personality and possibly alter their state of mental health. According to the cognitive approach to personality, an individual’s thinking patterns will include their information processing processes that are the way they perceive, analyze, interpret, encode and retrieve information.

This was first put forward by Bandura who summarized it as basically paying attention to, retaining, and later reproducing the idea of a behavior that is then modeled. These proceeds from Bandura’s proposition formed the basis of the cognitive approaches to personality. The cognitive methods were derived to try and find neurological explanations to the mental processes that involved in the paying attention to, retaining, and later reproducing the idea as was observed. This further developed the idea of memory and its role in personality development. People respond to situations in a specific manner they have learned over time through observation and experimentation and have memorized the ideal response that produced the best results. The creation of these memories also brings in the cognitive patterns that direct an individual’s habitual responses to stimuli. These cognitive methods deduce from Bandura’s social learning theory of personality development as the guide to the cognitive approaches to deciphering the ideals of personality. Therefore, the cognitive aspect comes in the form of the mental processes that are involved in the decoding of the information picked as an individual observes certain behaviors and choose to retain this information inform of memory that can easily be retrieved and used as a guide for the required action.

The social learning theory by Bandura, therefore, provides the bridge between the traditional behaviorism and the more recent cognitive approaches to personality as it encompasses attention, memory and motivation as the processes involved in the manifestation of an individual’s behavior and as such their personality. The attention needed to effectively capture an observed behavior and encode it in the mind involves an interplay of the person’s internal mind factors such as their sensory capacities and perceptual set that together with the generation of effective and sharp memories incline towards the cognitive approaches to personality. The motivation aspects of Bandura’s social learning theory are fulfilled by way of implying that the external physical stimuli, the environment in traditional behaviorism, are the cause that necessitates modeling of an observed behavior. The social learning theory, therefore, connects behaviorists learning methods and cognitive methods by showing that an individual’s personality traits depend on both the internal (mind processes) and external (environment) factors. Also, it has formed a basis for further development in the field of cognitive psychology as more cognitive methods are being devised to guide and help in the understanding of human behavior and their personality traits.


Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning theory. New York: General Learning Press

Graham, G. (2015). “Behaviorism”, in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Accessed on 25th July, 2017. Retrieved from

J. L. (2015). “Social Learning Theory (Bandura)”, in Learning Theories. Accessed on 25th July, 2017. Retrieved from

Krauskopf, C. J., and Saunders, D. R. (1994). Personality and Ability: The Personality Assessment System. University Press of America, Lanham, Maryland

Skinner, B. F. (1974). About Behaviorism, New York: Vintage. P.18

Wilderdom. (2003). Introduction to Cognitive Perspectives on Personality. Accessed on 25th July, 2017. Retrieved from