Dispositional and Learning Personality

Comparison and contrast between Dispositional and Learning Personality

It is evident that the above-mentioned theories have similarities and differences. This paper aims at examining each of the theories, comparing and contrasting them with regard to personality, interpersonal relationships, behavior and characteristics. One's personality has direct effects on their behavior. Each theory has personality characteristics attached to it and they will be examined later on. The paper further illustrates interpersonal relational angles associated with the above theories.

The Role of Personality in Affecting situational behavior

Personality happens to top the list of the most researched fields of psychology. Personality has a direct effect on behavior. Dispositional personality theory is based on the argument that every individual have sets of dispositions making up their personality hence affecting their behavior. (Cherry, 2013, para 1) states that "a trait can be thought of as a relatively stable characteristic that causes individuals to behave in certain ways." The manifestation of an individual's traits and characteristics is in their behavior, hence the reason why in some occasions one is defined by the traits and characteristics they possess.

Dispositional personality theory is made up of an individual's Allport's psychology and Eysench, McCrae and Costa's factor theories. (Feist & Feist, 2009 p. 424) states that "In the personality theory of McCrae and Costa, behavior is predicted by an understanding of three central or core components and three peripheral ones". Eysnck trait and factor theory have three components known as basic tendencies, self-concept and characteristic adaptation. Basic tendencies are the personality's raw components that biological, environmental, personality or altered by psychological interventions. These tendencies decide one's direction in life. Situational behavior gets its roots from an individual's basic tendencies. A basic tendency is made up of sexual orientation, cognitive abilities, personal traits and acquisition of language. (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 424) states that "The essence of basic tendencies is their basis in biology and their stability over time and situation."

Personality components whose components are modified by the help of environmental factors are known as characteristic adaptations. The personality exhibited by an individual over time adapts to their environment hence making one's behavior to rely on the ever changing environmental factors. Feist & Feist, 2009 p.425 state "Characteristic adaptations can be influenced by external influences, such as acquired skills, habits, attitudes, and relationships that result from the interaction of individuals with their environment." Taking into account how different situations play a role in changing one's individual skills, relationships, habits and skills, it is crystal-clear that behavior is subject influence over time when subjected to different situations. Self-concept is a form of adaptation and is a manner in which an individual views his or herself. This concept emancipates some influence over situational behavior because the feeling one exhibits towards oneself always evident in their behavior. It is true that people have different views of themselves with regard to different situations they are in at any given moment. Nature over time has shown that no matter the confidence level one has, some situations can make them exhibit fear and uncomforted and this has influence on their behavior with variation in time.

There are other peripheral components that also have influence on one's situational behavior. They are namely biological bases, external influences and biography. Biological bases are of the opinion that behavior results from biological factors such as genes, brain structure and hormones. Feist & Feist, 2009 p.426 cites that "the second peripheral component is objective biography, defined as everything the person does, thinks, or feels across the whole lifespan." McCrae & Costa share the school of thought that behavior results from the interaction of characteristic adaptations, external influences and peripheral components. This concept makes the assumption that situational behavior has influence over personality.

In contrast, dispositional personality on the other side lays emphasis on one's traits and characteristics while learning theories lay emphasis on behavior that can be observed. Therefore, observable behavior entails actions visible to others as well as feelings and thoughts that can be felt by the individual feeling them. Learning theory encompasses Skinner's behavior analysis, Bandura's social cognitive theory, Rotter and Michael's cognitive social learning theory and Kelly's psychology of personal contracts (Feist & Feist, 2009). Feist & Feist, 2009 p.442 states that "As an environmentalist, Skinner held that psychology must not explain behavior on the basis of the physiological or constitutional components of the organism but rather on the basis of environmental stimuli." Skinner had a strong belief in genetic factors despite viewing them as behavior of less importance. However, he notes that these factors have their presence even at birth hence have little control over behavior. He also was a believer that it is past experiences that have the most influence over an individual's behavior. This theory, therefore, evokes the idea that one's behavior in different situations is due to their past. Feist & Feist, 2009 p. 479 shares Bandura's thoughts that "people regulate their conduct through both external and internal factors." This would mean that internal and external factors have an influence on one's behavior in different situations but with reference to the present factors. However, one does not only learn from past experiences. Bandura was of the idea that a great part of learning is as result of watching the behavior of others around them and picking the right traits hence acting on them accordingly.

Personality characteristics attributed to dispositional and learning personality

            (Feist & Feist, 2009 p. 529) states "In general, personality theories are of two types-those who see personality as a dynamic entity motivated by drives, perceptions, needs, goals, and expectancies and those who view personality as a function of relatively stable traits or personal dispositions." Both dispositional and learning personality theories have personality characteristics linked to them. Allport was of the belief "psychologically mature people are characterized by proactive behavior; that is, they not only react to external stimuli, but they are capable of consciously acting on their environment in new and innovative ways and causing their environment to react to them"  (Feist & Feist, 2009, p.378). therefore, people who are psychologically healthy must exhibit traits as unselfish, be a realist, relate well with people around them, have a sense of security and acceptance for oneself, human insight and a clear view of what they want to achieve in life. Eysenck's factor theory dictates "that psychometric sophistication alone is not sufficient to measure the structure of human personality and that personality dimensions arrived at through factor analytic methods are sterile and meaningless unless they have been shown to possess a biological existence" (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 408). The author further illustrates Eysenck's biological stand and that leaned characteristics are non-existent. The McCrae & Costa five factor model gained mileage becoming a theory that had the ability to predict as well as explain behavior. However, Eysenck, McCrae & Costa shared the vision of factor models; Eysenck believed in the existence of three factors while McCrae and Costa had a belief in the existence of five main factors to be identified.

            Learning personality theory proposes that individual personalities are shaped with the help of different types of learning. Skinner's behavioral analysis advocates for passing on of these characteristics to the offspring; "Individuals who were most strongly disposed toward fear or anger were those who escaped from or triumphed over danger and thus were able to pass on those characteristics to their offspring" (Feist &Feist, 2009, p.461). Bandura also believed that one has the ability of learning via personal experiences; he, however, spent more time focusing on vicarious learning. Other learning theories suggest that most people have little or no authority over situations they find themselves in. (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 478) submits that "through a triadic reciprocal causation model that includes behavioral, environment, and personal factors, people have the capacity to regulate their lives." Rotter's, Skinner's Bandura's, Kelly's and Mischel's learning theory all agree on one fact that the kind of personality one develops is as a result of a learning process. Richel believes that no man is static in their behavior but can always be changed when subjected to learning.

Interpersonal Relational Associated with Dispositional and Learning theories

Dispositional personality theory categorizes people into groups with regard to one's personality traits. Interpersonal relationships are affected by one's emotions. Everyone exhibit different feelings towards the world around them hence, one's disposition has effect on interpersonal relationships. Example is a person who dispositions himself as a calm, composed and quiet person is highly probable to have interpersonal relationships with people they share with the same disposition. Past experiences affect the manner of interpersonal relationships as people tend to avoid situations that caused them fear, pain and heartaches before.

            Learning personality theory submits that conditions and vicarious learning affect personality. Despite the places one learns their behavior; their interpersonal relationship is always affected. Rotter came up with interpersonal trust as a means of testing the level of trust expected from an individual. (Feist & Feist, 2009, p. 525) submits that "high trusters are not gullible or naive, and rather than being harmed by their trustful attitude, they seem to possess many of the characteristics that other people regard as positive and desirable." Hence, the level of trust towards an individual has a direct influence on the interpersonal relationship of the individual.


Dispositional and learning theories have diverse views of personality and its formation. Dispositional theory submits that personality is always present when one is born and traces its modifications to one's past experiences while learning personality theory submits that personality is as a result of constant learning in spite of conditioning or vicarious learning. Interpersonal relationships are affected by both the theories. 

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