Human behavior has been studied by Psychologist throughout the years. Although they cannot agree upon what makes a person who they are, a few different theories have been developed. Among these theories are the evolutionary theory, the behavioral theory, the biological theory and the cognitive theory. The evolutionary theory focuses on our traits being passed down through the survival of genes. The behavioral theory is based upon our traits being learned by observation and our environment. The biological theory says that our traits are derived from heredity.
Lastly, the cognitive theory states that our traits are a learned and come from our experiences. Of these theories, I feel that the cognitive theory and the behavioral theory are very similar because how we think about things can often be influenced by our environment. However, I lean more toward the cognitive theory. I believe that many of our traits are learned as a child from the adults around us. Many times the way we think and believe is taught to us by our parents, family members, a pastor, or a grade school teacher.
Children are very influential and want to be like the people they love. As children we are taught that when we misbehave there will be consequences. By paying these consequences we learn not to repeat the bad behavior or we will pay the consequences again. An example from my childhood of cognitive learning would be when I went to the store with my mother and asked her to buy me some candy. She told me no, so when she was not looking, I put the candy bar in my pocket. When she realized what I had done, she took me back to the store and made me tell the store clerk what I had done.
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Not only did this embarrass me, but it also taught me a lesson. Although I knew stealing was wrong, it did not stop me from doing it because I did not know what the consequences would be. This life lesson from my mother stuck with me as a child and I still remember it as an adult. Since that day, I have not stolen anything else from anyone and I never will. Not only are positive behaviors learned, but negative behaviors can be learned as well. Hate can be a learned behavior and passed down from generation to generation. Racism is a form of hate.
As a child, if we observe our parents treating people of different racial backgrounds in a negative way, we are taught to treat these people the same way. Until someone puts a stop to it and teaches there child to love everyone equally, the cycle will continue and go on to the next generation. An example of hate being a learned behavior from my childhood comes from my father’s side of the family. Prior to my birth, my father had a disagreement with his brothers and sisters. Because of this disagreement, my dad stopped speaking to his family. This lasted throughout my childhood and continued well into my adult life.
Even though I had never met my aunts and uncles and they had done nothing to me personally, I did not like them and had negative feelings toward them. When I was in my twenties, my dad found out he had cancer and did not have much time left to live. He finally made peace with his family and I met my dad’s brother for the first time. He was a very nice man and I realized I had hated him my whole life for absolutely no reason other than that I was told to dislike him. Through studies, Psychologist have learned that even something as horrible as child abuse can be a cognitive behavior.
Many child abusers report that as children they also suffered abused at the hands of their parents. Many people would think that a man or woman who grew up in a home where child abuse was present would remember the pain and suffering that it caused them. That it would make them want to break the cycle and not cause their own child this same pain. However, in reality, they continue the same pattern of behavior that they learned from there parents and the cycle continues.
In summary, my belief is that our identities are formed in many different ways, but the cognitive theory is the one that I believe in the most. Why do I do what I do? Why do I feel the way I feel? Why do I think the way I think? I believe that our personalities are built over time 4 through our memories and experiences that we have along the way. As we grow up and develop, we are both positively and negatively influenced by the people in our lives. No matter how we become who we are today, as we look back on our lives we can all pinpoint experiences and people who changed our lives forever. The story of how we became who we are is a reflection of the experiences we have had, the places we have been, the people we have met and people who have loved us along the way.
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