Dollard and Miller Stimulus Response Theory of Personality

One of the psychology theories that have helped me to assess my behavior and understand myself better is the Dollard and Miller’s Stimulus-Response Theory, which stipulates that personality conflicts are learned and could therefore be unlearned (Personality: Theories). This theory has helped me to understand the role played by fear, conflict and repression in maladaptive learning which may result to neurosis (Personality: Theories). In this theory, neurosis is explained as learned ways of avoiding anxiety; which often results from phobias developed when scary experiences in individual’s life are not confronted (Personality: Theories). Such experiences end up producing fears in all future similar situations; making an individual to try to avoid situations associated with fear (Personality: Theories). However, this avoidance only increases the power of fear in the individual’s life but does not constitute a solution for fear or fear-related situations. The avoidance only makes the life of that individual to become worse as the strength of fear evidently increases. Dollard and Miller’s simulative response theory gives a clear description of what my life was, when I was a teenager in high school. I lived in fear of the roads, vehicles and the traffic police ever since my days as a high school student. Attempts to eliminate that fear and anxiety often resulted to phobia; creating even more fear and sometimes leading to depression. I never knew it was a maladaptive learning that resulted from my own experience and involvement in a road accident as a high school student.

During my second year as a high school student, I witnessed scary experiences of death scenes in a road accident that involved my school bus and a private salon car. The school bus was carrying 52 students who had been chosen to represent my school in inter-school games competitions and I happened to be one of the students’s privileged to represent the school in high jump competitions. I remember very well our excitement as the ambassadors of our school on that fateful morning when we all took our breakfast and boarded the school bus in the company of our school principal and three games teachers. Our school driver was an elderly man aged around 43 years. He was an experienced driver and we always trusted him because he did not have a history of road accidents for the fifteen years that he had worked as a driver in our school. We were only 12 kilometers away from the venue of inter-school games competitions when a salon car, coming from the opposite direction lost control while trying to overtake a lorry near a bridge and unfortunately hit our school bus head on collision at a high speed. I was seated at the back and I can still remember very well that at one moment, the atmosphere was filled with voices of students screaming for their lives. I experienced a total blackout and lost consciousness for a moment at the bang of my school bus and the salon car during head on collision. What followed were scenes of blood and glasses scattered all over the road. Three students who were seated in front were seriously injures and later died due to severe internal bleeding while four people who had boarded the salon car died on the spot; with their car crushed beyond recognition.

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Although I was not injured in the accident, the scenes that I witnessed continued to repeat themselves in my mind; both consciously and unconsciously for a long period of time. I experienced dreams and nightmares of the accident scenes that I had witnessed and sometimes I feared going to bed to avoid horrible dreams and nightmares. I developed fear of boarding vehicles and phobia of walking along the road. Whenever I met with a traffic or rescue police, I always remembered the scene of the accident and got even more depressed. I started reacting to these feelings of fear by avoiding the police. I further stopped walking along the road and avoided travelling aboard vehicles in response to fear. I developed anxiety and phobia towards vehicles, roads and police. Unfortunately, I did not confront my fears but instead I developed ways of avoiding anxiety; by staying away from vehicles, roads and police. This however resulted to more powerful fears that always caused anxiety and sleepless nights whenever I receive news of road accidents. My behavior is can be explained by Dollard and Miller’s theory which views regression as a response produced when earlier developmental periods repeat themselves in the event that appropriate behaviors are blocked by fear. In this theory, Dollard and Miller argued that any response that reduces ones drive level is reinforcing and it always tend to occur again (Personality: Theories). This implies that an individual is likely to repeat whatever responses he perceives to reduce his fear, like I have always done by avoiding roads, police and vehicles. This avoidance is not however a solution as it only creates more fear and anxiety. On understanding that I could apply Dollard and Miller’s theory to eliminate fear of roads, police and vehicles, I gave it a trial and developed a proactive approach to address fear.

Since Dollard and Miller’s theory emphasize that behaviors and responses are learned and can equally be unlearned, I applied this theory in an attempt to unlearn fear- related behavior that I developed after witnessing the accident. This was in response to Dollard and Miller’s Stimulus-Response Theory, which emphasizes on learning the behavior and type of responses associated with that particular behavior. My goal was now to unlearn fear of roads and responses associated with such fear. I wanted to develop new positive responses associated with the roads and replace the negative responses developed as a result of the accident. Although it was difficult at first, I gained courage and joined a group of friends who often exercised for 30 minutes daily either by running or walking along the road. I concentrated on the exercise and was often preoccupied with the excitement of benefits associated with exercising rather than the negative thoughts of road accident. My latest experience on roads, which was now the daily 30 minutes walk along the road soon changed my perception about roads as sources of death and I started embracing them as places where I can walk or ran freely in daily exercise to attain and maintain good health.

When I realized that exercise worked positively to change my perception about roads, I also started attending driving classes; which I thought would help me unlearn the behavior of fearing vehicles and avoid phobias associated with vehicles. Although it was initially difficult to convince myself to drive along the road, I soon developed courage and felt that I was in control over the vehicle. This changed my perception of vehicles as instruments of death to objects of luxury that I could control.

I now enjoy driving and I am no longer afraid of vehicles, roads or police. The theory has contributed positively in empowering me to change my perception towards the roads, police and vehicles. This goes a long way to proof the application and practicability of the theory and also proof right the theorists, who argue that one’s personality is based on his most recent learning experiences. My recent learning experiences about roads, police and vehicles have overtaken previous experience of accident and consequently have changed my perception about roads, ultimately making my personality better. I have learned that my personality changes from day to day for better because my current learning experiences are positive and embrace positive perception about roads, vehicles and police. My personality is therefore composed of habits; which are the learned associations between drives, appropriate cues, and responses (Personality: Theories). This makes me unique and different from any other person because my prior experiences differ from those of other people. Furthermore, my personality can be expected to change in future as encounter new future experiences.

According to Dollard and Miller’s Stimulus-Response Theory, one must want something, do something and get something in order for him to learn; hence factors related to this theory are drive, cue, response, and reward (Personality: Theories). This clearly explains how my desire for change, wanting to move out of fear and phobia associated with roads, vehicles and police motivated me to learn how to drive and exercise along the road. The experience was quite rewarding because it brought a new perception about roads, vehicles and police to my life and also addressed the problem at hand.

Dollard and Miller describe drive as a strong stimulus which impels action. They may be internal or external; Drive is what made impelled me to act and address fear and stop living a distressed life of phobia (Personality: Theories). Dollard and Miller’s theory has given me understanding that there are cues that guide me when a drive is aroused. Cues encourage me to respond; determining when and where to respond and even what type of response I should make. These were guiding factors towards my response to get out of fear.

My experiences are in line with Dollard and Miller’s stimulus-response theory, which stipulates that when children are born, they have a series of organized initial responses; whose hierarchy can be changed by the process of learning, leading to formation of new responses (Personality: Theories). My experiences have therefore resulted to formation of the latest order of responses towards roads, vehicles and police. They have replaced the old experiences and responses with new ones that are positive.

In conclusion, Dollard and Miller’s theory can be tested and proven. The theory works well for human beings as proven by my case. Dollard and Miller’s stimulus-response theory defines aggression behavior produced by reproducible stimulus situations such as frustrations or interruptions of goal seeking. A neurosis in the context of this theory is seen as failure to make adoptive behaviors which could be studied as learning failure and as such could be remedied with new learning.

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