Both classical conditioning and psychodynamic theory have played a pivotal role in the development of social psychology. For nearly all of the past century they have shaped and influenced the way psychologists, philosophers, and ordinary people have felt about the nature of the human psyche. It is because of this that we continue to use those theories today to predict the outcome of certain situations. In our particular case, we have a situation where one hundred women have been asked to rate the degree to which they agree or disagree with a certain statement when associated with a picture of an old manor of a young man. Separately, there is the question of their preferences for being supplied few or many facts. It is in such cases that both theories can be used to predict what their opinions will be.
Classical Conditioning, or behaviorism, began with John Watson and continued with B.F. Skinner. It ultimately became a well-known but widely discredited theory based on the hypothesis that human behavior can be explained entirely in terms of reflexes, stimulus-response associations, and the effects of reinforcers. More specifically, it contends that mental states can be analyzed through behavior or through a predictable way of acting and that the greater the number of presentations of stimuli there are, the greater the produced response is. In our particular case, those aspects will help to predict the influence on the women’s ultimate response both to the pictures of the old and young man and to the number of facts supplied to them.
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Psychodynamic theory, due largely to Sigmund Freud has had a lasting effect on the school of psychology. Unlike Behaviorism, it is still thought to have significant validity. Freud constructed a personality theory made up of three primary components. They are known as the id, ego, and superego. The most primitive of the three is the id. Its basis is the pleasure principle with its prime outlook on life being only a search for passion and personal satisfaction. On the next level comes the ego. It represents reason and common sense, more commonly known as the reality principle. On the highest level is the superego. It is motivated only by its drive for morality. Consequently, it becomes the repressive and guileful component as it attempts to internalize the morals it strives for. Those three elements, though, do not exist as individual and unrelated aspects of the human psyche.
Rather they coexist simultaneously with the ego attempting to reconcile the continuous inner conflict between the id and superego. This theory helps to predict the outcome of the women’s ultimate opinions as well. Both psychodynamic theory and behaviorism can help us determine the result of these women’s decisions. Without more detailed information on their backgrounds and the specifics of the case, however, it is almost impossible to make a valid prediction. Thus we have to supply certain assumptions. In the case of these one-hundred female participants who are presented with varying pictures, facts, and opinions, we will assume that they are women who are well educated, middle-aged, and upper-class as well as being happily married. These conditions undoubtedly influence their responses on both the validity of the statements of the young man as opposed to the old one and the extent of the facts supplied to them.
While the theory of classical conditioning may vary greatly from the theory of psychodynamics, in our specific case both theories ultimately yield similar responses. Within Behaviorism, a certain stimulus will produce a certain response based on the associations made with that stimulus. When these characteristically defined women are presented with the picture of the old man as opposed to the young one, they are more likely to agree with the old man based on the associations made with him. Because they have likely been educated by similar-looking professors, when they see a picture of this stern yet scholarly man, they immediately associate him with knowledge and wisdom. When they see the young man, however, they associate him with nothing but youth and very likely inferiority. What leads them to those associations though is their present stage in life.
They are already wealthy and set in their ways and believe they have no need for enlightenment from such a young man. Thus, they are more than likely to disagree with his statements. In addition, when presented with the number of supporting facts, they are more likely to be persuaded by a greater number of facts than by fewer. Because this theory assumes that all behavior is predictable from a certain stimulus, due to the clear logic of this situation, it is easily predicted that the stimulus of increased supporting facts will yield response of increased agreement. Due then to the given conditions, behaviorism would assume that an old man with many facts would receive the most support; the old man with few facts and the young man with many facts would receive similar medium support, and the young man with the few facts would unquestionably receive the least support.
Although the psychodynamic approach will differ from the behaviorist one, the conclusions it arrives at would likely be the same. Freud’s process of uncovering the ultimate response greatly differs from classical conditioning. His conclusions are based on one’s personality structure and the dominance of a certain ego component. In the case of the woman, because they are upper-class, educated, and happily married women who have already passed their sexual prime, they are likely to be satisfied with life and would use their reason along with the influence of their morals to guide their lives. Thus, while the ego is certainly in control, the superego is clearly playing a large part in these women’s psyche. Thus, rather than have a sexual attraction and thus consequently agreeing with the young man, these women would likely be more in agreement with the old man.
That is so because their reasoning power along with their morals tell them that the old man is more educated and more trustworthy. In addition, such reasoning would lead them to find more facts significantly more valid than fewer facts. Ultimately, the women’s egos along with influence from the superego would yield the result of an increased agreement with the old man having many facts as opposed to the young man with few facts. While Freudian psychology is composed of considerably different reasoning than behaviorism, in our case they seem to yield a parallel conclusion. The subjects, who are generally older, more satisfied, and more knowledgeable women, are in both cases more likely to agree with the old man who has many supporting facts. They are led to that conclusion either by the role of their reasoning and morals or by their associations with knowledge and logic. Hence, while both psychological theories lead to a complex investigation of the case, they both lead to the same result.