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The Connection between Learning Experiences and Personalities

A plethora of research has been done since its first beginning in the ancient Greek era with the study of humour by Hippocrates (Javier, 2014). With the progression of modern psychology, researchers and scholars have tried to establish the connection between the learning experiences of human beings and their personalities. Starting with the theory of Operant conditioning as propounded by the American psychologist B.F. Skinner, the direction of research in the field of personalities and learning experiences has hugely changed. The connection between learning experiences and personalities is not necessarily always visible and also can be debated over (Penney, David & Witt, 2011). More or less, all philosophers and psychologists believe that learning experiences have an extended influence on the personalities of individuals. The present essay aims at exploring two sides of the argument of whether an individual’s personality is made up of their learning experiences. The essay will also focus on the extent of the effects of learning experiences on the development of personalities in individuals.

Based on his experiences as a therapist, Carl Rogers has built his opinion of personalities as the accumulation of an individual’s experiences (Rogers, 1955). According to the opinion of Carl Rogers, the personalities developed in human beings are a result of their experiences in life. According to the opinion of Rogers (1995), personalities in individuals develop through the learning experiences they gather over time. In this connection, it is important to note that Carl Rogers's body of works is heavily based on building a psycho-therapeutic outlook of looking at the influence of learning experiences on an individual’s personality. Carl Rogers extensively developed a Humanistic Approach to the understanding of human personalities. The approach necessarily stresses the intrinsic worth of an individual. In simpler words, the humanistic approach to the understanding of personalities believes in the inherent goodness, creativity and activism in human nature (Greene, 2017). The humanistic approach as developed by Carl Rogers and also invested in by Abraham Maslow is a positivist approach. The development of the conception of self-actualisation by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow is important to note at this point. Although both Rogers and Maslow propagated the concept of self-actualisation, they varied in their explanation of it. Both Rogers and Maslow are of the opinion that self-actualisation is the basis of human motivation (Coan, 2019). Rogers believes that self-actualisation can be achieved with the help of subjective experiences. Subjective experiences according to the opinion of Carl Rogers, are the basis of the development of personality.

Drawing on this view of the humanistic explanation of personality development, it can be deduced that learning experiences play a significant role in the development of human personalities. However, before commenting rigidly on the heavy influence of learning experiences on the development of human personalities, the factors of the subjectivity of human experiences should be taken into consideration. Studying the behavioural changes in human beings is not the only goal of psychology according to the views of humanist psychologists. According to the opinion of humanist psychologists, human behaviours are subjective to their experiences and also do not always reflect learning. According to the humanist school of psychology, humans are superior to animals in terms of being capable of thought, consciousness and other important qualities. Thus, deducing the effects of learning by the use of behaviours in individuals is erroneous. The humanistic approach to understanding human psychology can be effectively applied to the area of education. Here, the understanding of the effects of learning on the development of personalities becomes important. According to Rogers, there are two types of learning: cognitive (meaningless) and experiential (meaningful) (Khatib, Sarem & Hamidi, 2013). Academic knowledge is learned through learning vocabulary and multiplication tables, and applied knowledge is learned through learning about engines so that one can repair an automobile. The major distinctions from the other perspectives are in the formation of experiential learning as an accumulated result of the specific needs of the learner. Rogers has enlisted the qualities of experiential learning as self-initiated, personal involvement, pervasive effects on the individual and the evaluation done by the learner. Drawing on this deduction of experiential learning and cognitive learning, it can be said that learning experiences have an extensive effect on the development of personalities.

Carl Rogers and the Humanistic Approach to Personality Development

To explore another point of view on the topic of the effects of learning experiences on the development of personalities, the views of B.F. Skinner can be taken into consideration. B. F. Skinner, the American psychologist formulated the theory of personality from a behaviourist approach. According to the behaviourist approach, human behaviours are the essential indicator of personality development by them. Skinner opined that the behavioural differences in individuals are entirely dependent upon the accumulation of the learning experiences by the person (Phelps, 2015). Skinner also propounded those individual behavioural differences are solely dependent on the differences in subjective experiences of learning. Learning according to the opinion of Skinner happens in two ways- by positive or by negative reinforcement. Further, according to the behaviourist approach to personality development, it can be said that human behaviours are a result of observational or direct learning. In contrast with the views of the Humanistic approach to personality, the Behaviourist approach sees the development of personalities as a result of the accumulation of major learning experiences and the societal influences on an individual.

Drawing from this particular deduction of human behaviours as the essential driving force of personality development, it can be said that human personalities are a result of their learning experiences and only their learning experiences. However, before concluding, the scientific and psychological feasibility of both theories should be assessed. While the humanist approach has several criticisms levelled against it, the theory of Skinner and the behaviourist theory have their disadvantages too. The major criticism levelled at Carl Rogers’ viewpoint is in terms of the vagueness of the concepts presented in the humanist theory (Thorne & Sanders, 2012). In terms of objectifying experiences for the purpose of defining the influences of learning experiences on the development of personality, the consideration of subjective experiences is not fitting. The experiences of learning, according to Carl Rogers are unique to every person, scientific representation of subjective experiences is not feasible enough for studying human behaviours or personalities. While some scholars and critics do agree with Rogers in believing the positive side of the humanistic approach to studying personalities, others reject it on the basis of its lack of objectivity (Csillik, 2013). In terms of drawbacks, the behaviourist theory of personality is also criticised by several psychologists. While the behaviourist theory is largely drawn from the development of personalities by the influence of learning experiences of individuals, the excessive dependence on learning is criticised by several critics and scholars. The behaviourist approach to studying personalities propound that the entire setup of personality among human beings is based on their responses to stimulus. According to the opinion of Richelle (2016), Radical Behaviourism as practised by B. F. Skinner has a positive side in considering the massive influence of the stimulus humans receive in the forms of learning experiences, however, the approach fails to consider the unconscious mind’s operation and its influence on the behaviour and personalities of individuals.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it can be said that while human behaviour and the individual differences in behaviours of human beings are the reflections of the experiences they gather, however, to say that human personalities are the only result of learning experiences would be an oversimplification. Considering both the humanistic and the behaviourist approach to understanding the human personality and its relation to the learning experiences, it can be said that while the humanistic approach lacks objectivity, the behaviourist approach fails to consider the essential humanness of humans by stating the stimuli-response pattern of learning and changes in behaviours of human beings. Considering the question of whether human personalities are solely the accumulation of learning experiences, it can be concluded by taking into consideration the views of Rogers and Skinner, that human individual differences in the behaviours of human beings to a certain extent are a result of the difference in circumstances. However, the differences in behaviours, and thus personalities cannot be said to be entirely built upon the learning experiences of the individuals.

References

Coan, R. W. (2019). The optimal personality: An empirical and theoretical analysis. Routledge.

Csillik, A. S. (2013). Understanding motivational interviewing effectiveness: Contributions from Rogers' client-centered approach. The Humanistic Psychologist, 41(4), 350-363

Greene, R. R. (2017). Carl Rogers and the person-centered approach (pp. 113-132). Routledge.

Javier, H. (2014). The four humours theory. ESSAI, 12(1), 21.

Khatib, M., Sarem, S. N., & Hamidi, H. (2013). Humanistic Education: Concerns, Implications and Applications. Journal of Language Teaching & Research, 4(1).

Penney, L. M., David, E., & Witt, L. A. (2011). A review of personality and performance: Identifying boundaries, contingencies, and future research directions. Human resource management review, 21(4), 297-310.

Phelps, B. J. (2015). Behavioral perspectives on personality and self. The Psychological Record, 65(3), 557-565.

Richelle, M. N. (2016). BF Skinner-a reappraisal. Routledge.

Rogers, C. R. (1955). Persons or science? A philosophical question. American Psychologist, 10(7), 267.

Rogers, C. R. (1995). A way of being. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Schaub, M., & Tokar, D. M. (2005). The role of personality and learning experiences in social cognitive career theory. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 66(2), 304-325. Doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2004.09.005

Thorne, B., & Sanders, P. (2012). Carl rogers. Sage.

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