Biological and Behaviorist Theories

Biological and Behaviorist Theories

Recall the factors you studied in Week 1 that influence personality. They include genetic determinants, environmental determinants, culture, social class, family, and peers. Looking at that list, it is fairly easy to distinguish what would be considered “biological” and what would be more “behaviorist” in influence. As you begin this week, you may want to return to your Week 1 Discussion post and reflect on which factor or combination of factors stood out to you as the biggest influence on personality development. It may tell you where you naturally lean in the “nature versus nurture” debate that has fascinated psychologists for decades.

This week you will continue your exploration of theories of personality by delving into biological and behaviorist theories. You will examine different views on whether personality traits are lasting or can change over time, and, in your Assignment this week, consider how fraternal twins raised in the same household could have opposite likes, preferences, and overall personalities. As you have in every week, you will work to expand your understanding of people and personality by evaluating the effectiveness of biological and behaviorist theories in explaining human behavior.

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Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Analyze biological theories to understanding of temperament
  • Analyze behaviorist theories to understanding of temperament
  • Evaluate biological and behaviorist theories as explanations of human behavior
  • Compare biological and behaviorist theories
  • Apply biological and behaviorist theories in explaining personality differences
  • Evaluate effectiveness of biological and behaviorist theories in explaining human behavior
  • Demonstrate an understanding of biological and behaviorist theories

Learning Resources

Note: To access this week’s required library resources, please click on the link to the Course Readings List, found in the Course Materials section of your Syllabus.

Required Readings

Cervone, D., & Pervin, L. A. (2019). Personality: Theory and research (14th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Chapter 9, “Biological Foundations of Personality” (pp. 242-272)
Chapter 10, “Behaviorism and the Learning Approaches to Personality” (pp. 273-300)Review these chapters of the text to support your Discussion and Assignment in Week 5. Also note that the Week 5 Test for Understanding is based on the material in these chapters.


Boeree, C. G. (2006). Personality theories: B. F. Skinner. Retrieved from
Continue building your knowledge of noted personality theorists with this profile of Skinner. Consider the information to support your Discussion post and Assignment this week.

Spiegel, A. (2010, November 22). Siblings share genes, but rarely personalities. National Public Radio. Retrieved from
This article, which is also available as a podcast on the website, profiles two brothers and their very different temperaments. Consider the information to support your Discussion post and Assignment this week.

Required Media

TED (Producer). (2012). Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are [Video file]. Retrieved from (21:02)
Note: You viewed this video in Week 1. View it again this week to consider how it informs your thinking on biological and behaviorist theories of personality.

Optional Resources

Plomin, R., & Daniels, D. (2011). Why are children in the same family so different from one another? International Journal of Epidemiology, 40(3), 563–582. Retrieved from


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