FREDUIAN AND SKINNERIAN INSIGHTS INTO X' CASE
Theory Application Paper
Sarah Merve Ahmad
In this paper, my main goal is to analyze one boy's development in depth whom I well
acquainted with, I will explain his development from Freud's Psychoanalytic and Skinner's ,
Behaviorist and Learning Perspective. I will shed light on his some specific behaviors,manners and
reactions by using these two different perspectives. I think these both perspectives lead me way to
understand him better and help me in order to figure out the real answer lying behind his character.
I will try to find the underlying factors that shape his character. Throughout the paper, I will keep
his name anonymously , lets call him X. First of all, I will give some background and biological
information about X .
X is a quite young boy. He is around 12 years old, coming from high-middle class family. He has
not been any romantic relationship yet. He is a student, goes to primary school called Mustafa M.
Boysan I.Ö.O which is located in Suadiye. He does not like studying instead studying, he prefers to
watch TV for hours or chatting with friends on Facebook. His home is located in Kozyatağı. He has
a kind of eating disorder problem, he is an over-weight and diagnosed as a in a danger of becoming
a diabetic and nowadays he is in on a strict diet. But for him it is quite difficult to apply this strict
diet because for him it is almost impossible task to leave his mouth empty. He always wants
something to eat or chew, enjoys oral stimulation especially while watching TV or movies.
Besides that , X has a special bond especially with his mother. he is dependent on her. There is a
kind of symbiotic relationship between X and his mum. Since early ages, he is surrounded by girls.
I view him as a different person when I compare him with other boys, peers and his friends. While
other boys are interested in playing football, cars, discussing about the last basketball game, he is
interested in girlish stuffs such as playing with the baby dolls, keeping up with the fashion,
discussing and reading the articles appeared in the magazines called such as HeyGirl. It could be
claimed that he lacks of same male characteristic traits.
I am going to analyze his behavior from two different perspectives. Firstly, I want to use
Skinner's approach , If we look at this case with Skinner's glasses, the first thing that we should do
is no to underestimate the importance of environment and we see that his behavior is mainly shaped
by his surroundings. According to Skinner the term personality is meaningless, he rejects any
mental internal component such as personality , according to him personality is a result of responses
to the environment. He is a radical determinist free will is an illusion, supports the idea that all
behavior is caused. According to him behavior is changed by its consequences we call it operant
And if we look at the case from Freudian perspective our interpretation differs to a great extent
and in Freudian perspective, we put great emphasizes on unconscious mind, id, ego, superego and
early childhood experiences. I will give more detail explanation about Freud's psychoanalytic
perspective later. Here I want to underline that both Freud and Skinner are radical determinist, they
believe that all human behavior is caused. They believe that people have no “free will” in their
behavior. While Skinner is environmental determinist, Freud is a biological determinist.
If we go back to Skinner's perspective, from his perspective, we could claim that he behaves
in that certain way, he prefers to be with the girls chatting with them because he takes advantage by
doing so. In order words, this behavior has a benefit for him. Lets look at ABC model from
behavioral perspective, this model can be divided into its components. In this Model A represents
antecedent(what comes before) antecedent leads to behavior, we might say that leads him to act in
that way as a consequence he feel himself accepted among them and feel happy. B represents
behavior and C represents the consequence. First thing is to ABC analysis. Here, overt behavior is
important for us. According to this model what comes before and each behavior has a consequence
here we could talk about the reinforcement +punishment. İf you desirable behavior ,your behavior
has been conditioned. Lets take X's case . When we look at his case we should find the function of
the behavior. If function has been reinforcing there is a high chance that the individual will keep on
performing the same behavior. He perceives himself as a popular among the boy feel himself unique
among the girls. His girl classmates want to be close with him , chatting with him compared with
the other. They prefer X because they have common interests about some certain topics. because he
is close to them although he is boy. It seems that he is quite satisfied with that condition moreover,
we see that he takes advantage from being with the opposite sex, feel himself unique. These all
advantages that he takes could be interpreted as a function of behaving in a girlish manner. As long
as X takes advantage from this situation, he will keep on behaving in the same manner. Function is
the benefit that he gets as a result of being with the girls. Function gives us an idea about what
should need to be changed and there psychotherapy works. We should ask X about why he behaves
in this way if it turns out that he behaves in this particular way because he wants to be accepted by
his opposite-sex friends and want to be liked. Then we may teach X that there are actually multiple
ways to be accepted by girls such as buying gifts for them, behave in a kindly manner instead
behaving in a girlish manner.
Different form Freud, Skinner acknowledges emotions thoughts and internal process but sees
them as irrelevant in explaining behavior. Thoughts and emotions do occur, according to Skinner,
but they do not cause behavior. Thoughts,emotions, and other internal events are, as are all
characteristics of the organism, caused by environmental events. According to Skinner general laws
of learning that apply equally to all human and nonhuman organism.
Now, lets put our Freudian glasses and try to look at X case from Freudian perspective.
According to Freud , always there is a deep meaning , real answer that we are looking for underlies
in X's mind childhood experience and the unconscious mind. In other words, his problem traces
back to his childhood or early life. His ID and desires are repressed and besides, the early
experiences which he had gone through also play significant role on shaping his character and the
life. I try to look at his personality in more detail and try to explain X and his certain characteristic
traits and the reactions given to the particular situation with the Freudian Concepts. Here, according
to Freud we might claim that X fails to complete psychosexual stages successfully and also this
could be the reason why fixation occur and in result becoming over-weight boy. I also want to point
out that three major system which constitutes the total personality and called id, ego and superego
fail to form and unified and harmonious organization this also might be considered as one of the
underlying factors lying behind his girlish manner.
According to perspective of Freud, personality is mostly established by the age of five, early
experiences not only play major role in personality development and but also continue to influence
behavior later in life. Life has traces from the one's past life therefore Freud believes that one
should not overlook the past experience. Freud's theory of psychosexual development is one of the
best known, but at same time it is one of the most controversial one and therefore it is open to
discuss. Freud believed that personality develops through a series of childhood stages during which
the pleasure-seeking energies of the id become focused on certain erogenous areas. This
psychosexual energy or libido was depicted as the driving force behind behavior. If these
psychosexual stages are completed successfully, the result is a healthy personality but if certain
issues are not resolved at the proper stage, fixation may occur. A fixation is a continual focus on an
earlier psychosexual stage. Until this conflict is resolved, the individual will remain “stuck” in this
stage. Such as X's case. For example, a person who is fixated at the oral stage may be over-
dependent on others and may seek oral stimulation through eating, drinking, or smoking and X
could be given as a great example for this claim.
Now, I want to look insight into X's another distinct behavior, I try to find the underlying
reason behind this symbiotic relationship with his mother. We could make assertion that he wants to
be identified himself with his mother and this desire might be the whole explanation behind all his
girlish manners and the behaviors his closeness towards his mother might be perfectly described
with Freudian perspective. Psychoanalytic perspective emphasize the unconscious process of the
mind, personality emphasizes the importance of early childhood experiences and the unconscious
mind. This perspective on personality was created by psychiatrist Sigmund Freud who believed that
things hidden in the unconscious could be revealed in a number of different ways. Freud stresses the
importance of early childhood events, the influence of the unconscious and sexual instincts in the
development and formation of personality. An Odepius Complex, or could be interpreted as his
closeness towards mother could be explained with Freudian terms , I claim that an Odepius complex
perfectly describes the condition that X is having. In other words, I claim that he might be having an
Odepius Complex and this might be real cause underlying his distinct personality and relationship
between his mother and other girls.
Freud come to assume that, by the time he has reached the 'phallic' stage of development, at around
the age of 4 or 5, the small boy is sexually interested in his mother, wishes to take possession of
her, and therefore feel hostile impulses towards his father. However, the hostility arouses fear that
the father will retaliate, and form which this retaliation is likely to take is that of castration.
Confronted by what he perceives as a horrifying threat to the most precious part of his body, the
small boy unconsciously give up his hopes of sexual union with his mother, identifies himself with
his powerful and aggressive father, and finally turns his attention towards securing sexual
satisfaction from other feminine sources.
Now, I want to shift the topic a little bit towards the Family Context. Here, my aim is to
gain new insights into X's case. I think it is quite important look at the family-context to understand
the individual better. Here, my aim is to underline in the importance of family issue in Child
Development. I assume that looking at family context helps us better understanding of X'case and
give some clues about him. Actually, there are various theories of child development involving
different types of psychological or behavioral phenomena. One of the early theories was that of
Sigmund Freud. His psychoanalytic theory posited that the child's personality is formed on the basis
of the child's developing psychosexual needs in four periods or stages, and the manner in which the
parents handle the child during those stages. We cannot underestimate the great influence of parents
influence on development of children. Parents definitely play major role shaping their children's
behavior, eating habits etc.
In the research article called Maternal- Child Feeding Patterns and Child Body Weight. Faith,
Heshka, Keller, Sherry,Matz, Pietrobelli, Allison (2003) mentions that during feeding may promote
childhood obesity or disordered eating patterns which are partially determined by environment
regarding to the result of this study, it is clear that we can not underestimate the importance of the
environment. As Skinner says, environment plays a major role to shape our behaviors.
And in another research article called Treatment of Obese Children With and Without Their
Mothers:Changes in weight and blood pressure Brownell, Kelman, Stunkard (1995)treatments
group divided into 3 subgroups . In the first treatment group Mother- Child attended separate
groups, in the second group mother-child together in the same group and in the 3. group, children
met in groups and mothers were not involved. The program consisted of behavior modification,
social support, nutrition, and exercises. According to results of the study that a program of behavior
modification and parent involvement can lead to significant weight losses in obese children, and that
the nature of parent involvement may be important.
This study mentions about behavior modification . It is a treatment method based on value of
operant conditioning with this technique, the undesirable behaviors changed with more desirable
ones through various techniques and the methods.
Reinforcement increases or strengthens behavior by reinforcing the desired behavior with praise,
X is more likely to perform the same action again. Reinforcement refers to anything that increases
likelihood that a response will occur. Reinforcement has an effect on behavior either it strengthens
or increases the behavior. In X'case using some reinforcement may lead us to desirable
consequences. For instance; as I mentioned before, he does not apply his diet in a proper way, but it
might be good solution to use some reinforcements in order to convince him apply his diet.
Research article called Treating Overweight Children Through Parental Training and Contingency
Contracting Aragona, Cassady, Drabman (1975)mentions that response-cost plus reinforcement
group regained weight more slowly than the response-cost only group. This may indicate that
parents in the response-cost plus reinforcement group were more likely to continue their effective
use of reinforcement procedures than were parents in the response-cost only group.
The present study demonstrated that behavior-modification techniques can be successfully used to
enable parents to help their children lose weight. This study mentions about behavior modification .
It is a treatment method based on value of operant conditioning with this technique, the undesirable
behaviors changed with more desirable ones through various techniques and the methods. Skinner is
regarded as the father of behavior modification science.
I want to point out that Freud admits that thoughts and emotions as an internal events in order to
explain and understanding of behavior. Skinner differs himself from Freud in that sense, Skinner
does not perceive thoughts, emotions and other internal events in order to explain and
understanding of one's behavior. Although, Skinner does not deny thoughts, emotions and other
internal event, he puts great emphasis on environment and according to Skinner thoughts, emotions
and other internal process all caused due to environmental causes. According to Skinner
“personality” is meaningless concept besides, he does not believe in internal component of
behavior such as id,ego and superego and he has not put emphasis on unconscious mind.
Psychoanalysis perspective provide us to better explanation regarding the X's case. Also based on
the information that get from empirical evidence though we also cannot deny the fact that
environmental condition affect X to some extent for instance his girlfriends and his mother could
be interpreted as environmental condition.
Here nevertheless, I want to put emphasizes on crucial importance of personality. we cannot
underestimate the importance of personality as we analyze X therefore I want you to draw attention
to crucial link between Personality disorders and the Obesity. Before making treatment plans for X's
obesity problem, I would suggest for learning more information about his personality. According to
research article called Treatment of Obesity by Personality Classification-Oriented Program
Yoshida, Murano, Saito, Inadera, Tashiro, Kobayashi, Tadokoro, Kanzaki,
Shinomiya,Morisaki,Ohono,Ishikawa,Shirai, Azuma,Kodama(1995) , an understanding of the
personality of obese patients was effective in helping to avoid psychological reactions. As I
mentioned before, X has more feminine qualities than male qualities therefore it could be argued
that he might have some personality pathology. Although, it is a quite early to make reasonable
claim about his sexual orientation , It is obvious that , he has no interested in opposite-sex, in others
words, he has not perceived the opposite sex as an opposite sex. He perceives himself as a female
rather than male and identified himself with his mother. Before making treatment plans for X's
obesity problem it might be good idea for learning more information about his personality. It might
lead us to make better treatment plan for X.
I was curious about whether there is relationship between obesity and personality pathology that X
has. This curiosity triggers me to make deep search about this issue and it turns out to be that there
is a relationship between X's obesity his personality pathology . According to Research article
called The Relationship Between Borderline Personality and Obesity Sansone, Randy A.Sansone,
Lori A.Sansone (2013 )Personality Pathology may also play a unique role in obesity, relationship
between one specific personality disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD) and obesity is open
Because personality disorders are believed to commence and consolidate in childhood through the
interactions of genes and the environment, it is probable that personality pathology precedes eating
pathology in most cases(eating disorders most often manifest in early-to-late
adolescence).Therefore, a given personality pathology might be viewed as a potential risk factor for
the subsequent development of a specific type of eating pathology. Given the preceding perspective
on relationships between personality pathology and eating pathology, it is acceptable to make
inferences about possible relationships between BPD and Obesity Sansone, A.Sansone (2013 ) It
could be inferred that personality pathology seems to influence eating pathology, such that
restrictive personality pathology.
Subjects with Borderline Personality Disorder were significantly more likely than comparison
subjects to report homosexual or bisexual orientation and intimate same-sex relations. According to
research of the study called Sexual Orientation and relationship Choice in Borderline Personality
Disorder over Ten Years of Prospective Follow-up Reich, Zanarini, ( 2008)same-gender attraction
and/or intimate relationship choice may be an important interpersonal issue for nearly one-third of
both men and women with BPD. Results of this study shows us the fact that, patients with BPD
were over 75%more likely to report homosexual/bisexual orientation than comparison subjects with
other personality disorders. And according results of another research article called Psychological
Factors Associated with Homosexuality in Males with Borderline Personality Disorder
Paris,Zweig-Frank, Guzder,(1995) there was a significantly higher rate of homosexuality in
borderline than in non borderline personality disordered men.
To conclude, if we look at X's case from Skinner's perspective, we might conclude that all
X's operant behaviors that X demonstrates called as his personality. But in some cases, in order to
determine one's personality, it might be not sufficient for us to make claim about X's personality by
just looking at his X's , operant behaviors. I assert the idea that in X's case, we should dig into
more instead of looking from surface level. Regarding to X's case, Skinner would probably look at
environmental causes rather than thoughts, emotion. And if we look at X's case just look from
Skinner's Behaviorist and Learning Aspects of Personality, it is likely that we make error because
we come to realize that most of his real problems is kind of hidden has not come up to surface yet
by just looking a observable behaviors and environment, we may not determine his exact
personality. We see that X's problem traces back to his childhood experiences and his unconscious
mind plays major role determining his personality . In that sense, I would claim that Freud's
Psychoanalysis perspective explained X's case much better and give much stronger empirical
evidence as compared to Skinner's Behaviorist and Learning Perspective .
Faith, Heshka, Keller, Sherry,Matz, Pietrobelli, Allison (2003) Maternal- Child Feeding Patterns
and Child Body Weight. Arch Pediatr Med.2003;157:926-932.
Brownell, Kelman, Stunkard (1995)Treatment of Obese Children With and Without Their
Mothers:Changes in weight and blood pressure. Pediatrics 1983 Apr; 71(4):515-23.
Aragona, Cassady, Drabman (1975) Treating Overweight Children Through Parental Training and
Contingency Contracting. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1975,8,269-278.
Yoshida, Murano, Saito, Inadera, Tashiro, Kobayashi, Tadokoro, Kanzaki,
Shinomiya,Morisaki,Ohono,Ishikawa,Shirai, Azuma,Kodama(1995)Treatment of Obesity by
Personality Classification-Oriented Program.Obesity Research Vol.3 Suppl. 2 Sept. 1995.
Sansone, Randy A.Sansone, Lori A.Sansone (2013 )The Relationship Between Borderline
Personality and Obesity. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2013 April;10(4):36-40.
Reich, Zanarini, Sexual Orientation and relationship Choice in Borderline Personality Disorder
over Ten Years of Prospective Follow-up( 2008)J Pers Disord.2008 December;22(6):564-572.
Paris,Zweig-Frank, Guzder, Psychological Factors Associated with Homosexuality in Males with
Borderline Personality Disorder (1995)Journal of Personality Disorders.Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 56-61.