Human Nature: Theories of Human Behavior

Copyright 2004 David A. Wheeler, Ph.D., PHR, CMT   Last updated 10/11/05 04:10 PM

Good vs. Evil vs. Neutral
Free will vs. predetermined
Learning  vs. genetics 

Psychodynamic Theories
evil,  free-will with effort, genetics

Humanistic Theories
good, free will, learning (react to environment)
Maslow: Hierarchy  of Needs
self-esteem: a positive self evaluation
self esteem comes from success

self: sense of yourself as being different from others

ideal self: who you think you are
real self: what you really are

ideal self mismatch with real self causes conflict and mental disorders

Supportive environment

  1. Real self able to come out
  2. unconditional positive regard
  3. empathy

Cognitive/Behavioral Theories
Behavioral theories
Neutral, Learning, freewill, external

Classical Conditioning
stimulus -> stimulus

Operant Conditioning
behavior -> consequence

Observational Learning (Social learning theory)
learn by watching others

Once again with Details

Classical Conditioning
stimulus -> stimulus
US -> UR
NS -> CS
CS -> CR

To make conditioning occur

forward conditioning: present CS first then overlap with US, best if it starts within 1 second

reverse conditioning: CS happens after US, learning does not occur

trace  conditioning: (memory trace) CS happens before US, stops, then US occurs OK but not best

To break conditioning
Extinction: Present CS without US enough and CR goes away

Counterconditioning: Pair with incompatible stimulus

Aversion Conditioning: pair bad US  with CS

Behavior substitution: do a behavior that is similar to the behavior you want to get rid of

Flooding: present overwhelming stimulus and make person relax

Systematic Desensitization: present a hierarchy of scary things until you learn to relax

Chaining: Behavior is a chain of smaller behaviors. To make changes:

Break links
rearrange order
add links
add delays
Environmental Planning: conditioning to specific parts of your environment



Operant Conditioning
behavior -> consequence

reinforcer: something which changes or maintains behavior

Types of reinforcer

  • Like
  • Dislike
  • Primary
  • Secondary
  Primary Reinforcer: Biological Significance Secondary Reinforcer: Learned
Like Food, Water, Air, Pleasure, Sex, REM Sleep  
Dislike Pain  
Contingency (The rules of the game.)
 The link between the behavior and what occurs after you do the behavior

Contingency Table

  Get  Remove
Like   Positive Reinforcement Negative Punishment
Dislike Positive Punishment  Negative Reinforcement

    Negative Reinforcement is also known as Escape Learning or Avoidance

The contingency increases the behavior's occurance.
The contingency decreases the behavior's occurance
Algebraic: something is added.
Algebraic: something is deleted

Changing behaviors

figure out what is positive and negative reinforcer

figure out the contingency


punishment needs to be accompanied with the positive alternative

Schedules of Reinforcement

Continuous: get reinforcer every time do behavior, easiest to learn, least resistant to extinction

Intermittent (or partial): get reinforcer sometimes

Interval Schedule: A certain amount of time has to pass before your behavior will get you the reinforcer
Fixed Interval Schedule: Fixed amount of time passes

Variable Interval Schedule: variable amount of time passes

Ratio Schedules: based on how many times you do the behavior
Fixed Ratio Schedule: fixed number of behaviors

Variable Ratio Schedule: variable number of behaviors, hardest to learn, maintain the highest frequency of behavior, most resistant to extinction

Variable reward: amount of reinforcer is variable

"I eat my watermelon from the outside in."

Premack Principle: you can reinforce a less desirable behavior with a more desirable one, you can reinforce something you do at a low frequency with something you do at a high frequency

The reinforcer ALWAYS has to come after the behavior


            Stimulus -> Behavior->Consequence


Classical Conditioning -> Operant Conditioning

Vicarious Learning: the classical or operant conditioning is happening to someone else

Modeling: imitating someone who has what you want with the belief that if you do what they do, you will get what they get

Self-efficacy: your belief that you can accomplish a specific task

people with high self-efficacy stick with a task longer and are more resistant to stress


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