Chapters 11 and 12 of Psychology (2017) discuss various aspects of behavioral and personality development and the ways in which people express both positive and negative aspects of their developmental levels and personalities. In this paper, five examples of theories or behavior examined in the text will be examined through television episodes, films, and literature in which examples of these theories and behaviors are depicted. The five concepts to be discussed are: Freud’s theory of the conflict between the id and superego to control the ego, the Skinnerian concept of operant conditioning, the genetic component theory of development, social conformity, and pro-social behavior or altruism.
Examples to be Discussed from Chapters 11 and 12 Readings
Freud’s Conflict Between Id and Superego to Control the Ego
Sigmund Freud, often called the Father of Psychoanalysis, theorized that the human personality consisted of three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego, two of which (id and superego) were constantly at war with one another to control the third (ego) that determined every person’s behavior (Spielman and OpenStax N.P.). The id, or “pleasure center,” was primarily concerned with a person’s immediate gratification, while the superego could be best described as being a person’s conscience or sense of right and wrong (Spielman and OpenStax N.P.). The ego was somewhere in between these two extremes, and could be affected by thoughts generated in either of the other two aspects of a person’s mind (Spielman and OpenStax N.P.).
Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove
In one scene in Disney Films’ The Emperor’s New Groove, the character of Kronk is trying to make a decision between doing something that he has been ordered by the emperor to do, but he recognizes as ultimately having negative consequences, or doing what he believes to be the right thing (Dindal and Fullmer). The battle between the id and the superego to influence his actions (the ego) is depicted by a tiny angel appearing on his one shoulder and a tiny devil appearing on his other shoulder. The devil was trying to convince him to do what he believed in his heart to be the wrong thing, but that would serve him well personally. In this way, it can be seen as representing the id portion of Kronk’s personality. The angel, conversely, was trying to convince him to follow his heart and do the right thing, and therefore can be seen as representing Kronk’s superego. Kronk’s primary self (his ego), was listening to the arguments of both the devil and the angel, trying to decide what to do.
Skinnerian Operant Conditioning
B. F. Skinner theorized that the majority of human behavior was developed and reinforced through the use of what he termed operant conditioning (Spielman and OpenStax N.P.). Operant conditioning involves the extinguishing, or eliminating, of unwanted or negative behavior and encouraging the use of desired or positive behavior, through a system of using positive and negative reinforcements (Spielman and OpenStax N.P.). Positive reinforcement involves rewarding a person when he or she displays a desired behavior, while negative reinforcement involves discouraging an unwanted behavior by removing something positive from the person displaying it (Spielman and OpenStax N.P.).
Penny and Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory
In “The Gothowitz Deviation,” an episode of the popular television show, The Big Bang Theory, the character of Sheldon attempted to use operant conditioning to extinguish the unwanted behavior of the character of Penny, which was talking during a television show (Cendrowski, Chakos, Belyeu, and Reynolds). He used positive reinforcement by offering her a piece of chocolate every time she agreed to stop talking, and eventually every time she started talking and reminded herself to stop, she held her hand out in anticipation (subconsciously) of receiving a reinforcement (Cendrowski et al.)
The Genetic Component to Development
Some theorists propose that certain elements of a person’s development and personality are heavily influenced by a biological, or genetic, component (Spielman and OpenStax N.P.). This is widely believed to be the case in specific personality conditions such as the chance of developing depressive symptoms, phobias, or addictions (Spielman and OpenStax N.P.).
Henry and His Father in Anne Tyler’s Digging to America
In Anne Tyler’s 2006 novel Digging to America, one minor character is Henry, a neighbor of two of the primary characters. Henry has an alcohol addiction problem that he has been trying, unsuccessfully, to fight for several years (Tyler 121-137). During one chapter of the novel, Henry thinks back on his past experiences with his now-deceased father, and it is revealed that the father also had addiction problems which led Henry, during childhood, to be determined never to use alcohol (Tyler 121-137). However, it is also revealed in this chapter that during adolescence, while at a high school party, Henry reluctantly agreed to try his first alcoholic drink, and that from that point on he became unable to stop consuming alcohol. This storyline points to a genetic, or biological, basis to his addiction (Spielman and OpenStax N.P.).
Social conformity is a person’s natural desire and striving to fit in with their chosen social group, and for their behavior to be affected accordingly (Spielman and OpenStax N.P.). During certain stages of life, especially adolescence, the need to “fit in” can be extremely strong, causing people to behave in ways that they normally would not simply because they want to be perceived as being the same as the members of the social group they wish to belong to (Spielman and OpenStax N.P.).
The Character of Cady in Mean Girls
The character of Cady in Mean Girls is a high school student who has just moved to a new town and consequently a new school. She befriends some students who could be described as being part of “the out crowd,” who warn her against another clique of students they refer to as “the plastics,” who are the popular girls (Waters and Michaels). Despite Cady’s friendship with her original friends, when “the plastics” approach her to become part of their clique, she radically alters her behavior, becoming dismissive of her past friends and superficial (Waters and Michaels). While she feels bad about her behavior, ultimately her desire to be a part of the popular crowd outweighs her sense of what is right and wrong (Waters and Michaels).
Pro-Social Behavior and Altruism
While what is and is not considered to be pro-social behavior varies slightly depending on generation and culture, in general, the appropriate way for people to act—being kind to others, not breaking the actual or social law, and generally just being what could be termed “a good person” is usually the goal of most people in every society and culture (Spielman and OpenStax N.P.). People often learn a society’s norms and accepted behavior through example (Spielman and OpenStax N.P).
The Hand Puppets and Human Characters on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood
Every episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, which aired on PBS from 1968-2001, featured both actual human characters and hand puppet characters who were consistently behaving in pro-social ways (Walsh, Chen, Moates, Lally, Rogers, Whitmer, Newbury, and Moates). In cases where a character would make a mistake or do something considered not to be pro-social, there was always a lesson involved, and the character eventually made an attempt to change his, her, or its behavior (Walsh et al.). The general goal of the program was to model pro-social behavior to the young children who were the show’s target audience (Walsh et al.).