Sample Term Paper On The Personality Of Dorothy Gale According To Personality Trait Theory And Behaviorist Theory

Type of paper: Term Paper

Topic: Psychology, Behavior, Personality, Theory, Trait, Behaviorism, Belief, Attitude

Pages: 9

Words: 2475

Published: 2020/10/16

Dorothy Gale was the heroine in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz (Fleming, & LeRoy, 1939). Dorothy was an adolescent from rural Kansas during the 1930’s who lived on a farm with her aunt and uncle. She was the only child on the farm and was surrounded by hard-working adults who cared for her, but who were required to work hard out of necessity. Dorothy’s aunt and uncle provided for her, but their simple and economical clothing, furniture, and home implied a lifestyle based on hard-work and determination. Farming during the 1930’s was a humble profession, although respectful, and since the Gale’s had hired farmhands they appeared to be established farmers. Dorothy was trusted enough to ride her bicycle around the county, but was still young enough to be dismissed when farm work needed to be accomplished. Further illusions were made to the Gale’s economic and social status when Aunt Em stood up to the wealthy and connected Miss Gulch (Fleming, & LeRoy, 1939). It was never directly stated that Dorothy was an orphan, but it was implied since she was being raised by her aunt and uncle and her parents were never referred to.
Dorothy’s entire adventure through the magical world over the rainbow was fictionalized to show how she came to realize how much she loved and appreciated her home and family. At the end of the film she woke up in her room surrounded by the people she loved and the viewer learned she suffered head trauma and had been in a coma, rather than actually travelling in a house through a tornado (Fleming, & LeRoy, 1939). Dorothy’s life and hometown were shown in black and white, and then the Land of Oz was shown in bright Technicolor to illustrate the comparison between her original drab and simple home to the fantasy and wonder of Oz. Her home was still black and white when she returned, but the moral of the story was that she had learned to appreciate the loving home she had and see it for what it was, rather than dreaming of going to an exciting and magical land (Fleming, & LeRoy, 1939). Dorothy’s journey in The Wizard of Oz placed her in many different situations, and her personality can be described based on her behaviors throughout the film.
Personality trait theory views personality characteristics as stable over time, and stable across situations (Burger, 2011). If a person is very optimistic they still may occasionally experience times of doubt or negativity, but over a long period of time the person exhibits behaviors that are consistently and generally very optimistic. This also means that the person exhibits very optimistic behavior whether their car has just broken down or they are in line at the movies; in all situations the person usually behaves very optimistically. Trait theory is based on patterns of behavior that are stable and can be measured along a normal distribution (Burger, 2011). Trait theory places all personality characteristics along a continuum illustrated by a normal curve in which there are some individuals who are extremely high or low in a trait, but most display behavior associated with the average degree of a trait. A trait has been defined as “a dimension of personality used to categorize people according to the degree to which they manifest a particular characteristic” (Burger, 2011, p. 150). Almost all behavior can be placed along a trait continuum. For example, optimism can range from overdependence on unrealistic expectations at one extreme to always planning for the worst outcome at the other extreme. Personality trait theory does not emphasize the underlying processes for behavior, but categorizes all behavior by where it falls on a continuum, and studies how people who fall into each segment of a continuum will behave (Burger, 2011).
Behaviorist theory views personality as a product of habitual responses to stimuli that have been conditioned throughout a person’s life (Burger, 2011). Each person has a unique history of experiences that have shaped their characteristic responses, and so even though each person’s behavior is somewhat predictable every person has a different personality. For example, behaviorist theory may claim a very optimistic person has been conditioned by parents and teachers to respond to challenges by looking on the bright side of any given situation. Classical conditioning refers to neutral stimuli being associated with stimuli that already elicit a specific response so that the neutral stimuli elicit the specific response (Burger, 2011). For example, if a person drinks orange juice and then vomits after because they have the flu the taste of orange juice may make them sick to their stomach for a while. Operant conditioning is often synonymous with learning because it results from the consequences of a behavior; whether positive or negative, reinforcing or punishing. Traditional behaviorist theory omits the influence of all cognitive processes and feelings, and claim that only observable behaviors are necessary and appropriate for the study of psychology. Therefore, behaviorist theory dictates personality through observable behaviors and consistent patterns of response to previous stimuli (Burger, 2011).
This paper will describe Dorothy Gale’s personality using personality trait theory and behaviorist theory. However, rather than using the basics of these original theories to interpret Dorothy’s behavior, this paper will utilize current developments in each theory to examine her behavior and describe her personality. First, this paper will discuss the Big Five trait dimension that culminates much of trait theory and provide current theory and research that has developed from this framework. Then this paper will apply this research by incorporating it into a description of Dorothy Gale’s personality according to the Big Five traits. Second, this paper will discuss another current development of personality trait theory that investigates the relation between temperament and traits, and then apply this research to Dorothy’s traits to provide a more in depth description of her personality according to trait theory. Third, this paper will discuss traditional behaviorist theory, ways it has evolved, and the areas of current research it is still applied to. Then this paper will describe aspects of Dorothy’s personality using concepts of behaviorist theory to explain how these patterns of behavior developed. Fourth, this paper will discuss a theory that developed through behaviorism in order to incorporate attitudes as a function of behavior, and the current direction of research founded on this theory. Then this paper will examine Dorothy Gale’s consistent attitudes and discuss these through the behavioral framework of this theory.
Personality trait theory divides traits into dimensions, and many trait psychologists tried to statistically discover the most basic personality traits (Gosling, Rentfrow, & Swann, 2003). Many personality traits are similar or related, but researchers consistently discovered five basic dimensions of personality, and these five factors were developed and used in so many different ways they came to be called the Big Five (Gosling et al., 2003). Trait psychologists still research the Big Five and how it applies to many different aspects of life (Komarraju, Karau, Schmeck, & Avdic, 2011). One aspect of the Big Five under investigation has been age differences, and Soto, John, Gosling, and Potter (2011) conducted a cross-sectional study with a sample of over a million individuals. Soto et al. (2011) were trying to discover how personality traits are different across different ages and if traits have different trends during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. According to Komarraju et al. (2011), different traits that have been associated with the Big Five dimensions can uniquely contribute to behavior.
The Big Five can be used to describe Dorothy Gale’s personality, and Soto et al.’s (2011) recent research helps to create a more accurate description of her personality as an adolescent. Adolescents begin to question and resist the values and rules taught to them by adults, and begin to develop self-regulatory skills to combat the more frequent opportunities for rebellious behavior. Soto et al. (2011) found that average levels of Conscientiousness and Agreeableness showed negative trends from childhood to adolescence, and then positive trends back into adulthood. This describes Dorothy who was not self-disciplined or orderly, and instead she was fighting to be heard and taken seriously by the adults. Rather than complying with her aunt and uncle’s decision to give up Toto, she decided to run away spontaneously without considering how she could survive (Fleming, & LeRoy, 1939).
Soto et al. (2011) found that two facets of Neuroticism, anxiety and depression, became present in adolescence and had negative trends across early adulthood. Dorothy was not high in the Neuroticism dimension, and was often pleasant and cheerful with those around her. However, she did become anxious easily when situations were threatening, and she worried often throughout the film beginning with the opening scene (Fleming, & LeRoy, 1939). This facet of Neuroticism accurately applies to Dorothy who became very anxious when she thought she would fail. Soto et al. (2011) found that overall Extraversion showed a small negative trend into adolescence and then flattened out into adulthood; whereas, Openness to Experience showed a negative trend in adolescence and a positive trend back into adulthood. Dorothy did not fall into these trait averages for her age, and was very friendly, active, curious, and longed for new experiences.
Using the Big Five to describe Dorothy Gale’s personality shows that she was low in Consciousness and high in Extraversion and Openness to Experience. However, Dorothy was split on the Agreeableness dimension because although she rebelled against the adults in her life, she was kind and generous to the friends she made in Oz. She was also split on the Neuroticism dimension because she did not show signs of depression, but she was easily anxious and stayed worried through many situations.
Trait psychologists have also conducted ample research to show the predictive power of personality traits, and can predict the consequences of traits from the range of individuals to society (Burger, 2011). However, personality trait theory has extensively examined what traits predict, but not how traits cause the outcomes. Hampson (2012) proposed that investigating personality processes can enlighten trait theory, measurement, and development. Hampson (2012) stated that categorization of traits does not answer why a person exhibits stable trait behavior, and claimed that the relation between temperament and personality was important for answering these questions. Temperament is usually studied in small children, but it becomes the basis for many parts of a person’s personality and by adulthood it can be mapped onto the Big Five traits. Hampson (2012) integrated biological and classification approaches to traits to develop new ideas about trait processes with the goal of making trait theory more useful.
Hampson’s (2012) research took trait theory one step further by examining the personality processes of each of the Big Five by relating to aspects of temperament. Applying this new research to Dorothy Gale’s placement on the dimensions of Big Five traits offers greater insight into her personality. Dorothy was high in Extraversion which aligns with the temperament of positive affect and experiencing greater happiness (Rothbart, 2007). According to Rothbart (2007), this means she is more likely to use problem-solving skills when faced with a challenge, rather than avoidance. This can be seen when Dorothy embarks on her journey to the wizard, and makes friends along the way to aid her (Fleming, & LeRoy, 1939). Hampson (2012) claimed that “extroverts are happier because they are more likely to actively create situations for themselves that make them happy” (p. 325); such as Dorothy surrounding herself with friends.
Dorothy was low in Conscientiousness, and this trait shows processes for constraint which is a temperament that precedes later trait conscientiousness (Rothbart, 2007). Deficiency in this temperament would mean that Dorothy was undisciplined, unreliable, and lacked restraint (Rothbart, 2007). She displayed this behavior in Kansas when she yelled at Miss Gulch and ran away, and she continuously acted impulsively (Fleming, & LeRoy, 1939). Hampson (2012) stated that lack of constraint and self-control could help explain why those who are low in Conscientiousness often engage in risky behavior, and also may be more easily influenced by peers. This somewhat describes Dorothy who took many risks without thinking ahead; however, her actions were also goal-oriented and she was highly motivated after arriving in Oz. Hampson’s (2012) personality processes did not universally apply to Dorothy Gale, but they did offer a greater understanding of why her personality led her to make the decisions she did.
Traditional behaviorist theory disregarded the idea of consciousness and tried to reduce mental occurrences to conditioned reflexes and purely observable behavior (Burger, 2011). Over the years this theory has evolved into social learning theory which incorporates concepts such as behavior potential, weighing expectancy with reinforcement value, to the conditioning equation (Burger, 2011). However, behaviorist theory accrued extensive empirical evidence for classical and operant conditioning as it only recognized measurable, quantifiable behavior (Gokmenoglu, Eret, and Kiraz, 2010). These concepts are still being applied today in many fields such as clinical therapies and education, and Gokmenoglu et al. (2010) claimed that “behaviorism is still one of the most influential educational theories” (p. 298). Since behaviorist theory applies straightforward concepts to learning and leads to consistent results, the interactive computerized education methods used in elementary schools are based on behaviorist methods (Gokmenoglu et al., 2010). Therefore, although conditioning concepts from behaviorist theory were not recently developed, they are still used to develop new learning practices and can relevantly be applied to Dorothy Gale’s behavior and personality.
Behaviorist theory would describe Dorothy’s personality as results of previous learning and experiences. Dorothy was very open and trusting, and this was most likely due to her sheltered life on a farm surrounded by people whom she had always been able to trust (Fleming, & LeRoy, 1939). Although Dorothy ran away she never lied to her aunt and uncle or tried to keep her opinions to herself; and according to behaviorism this could have been due to a lack of negative consequences for speaking out, and likely positive consequences for honesty. Dorothy was trusting and honest throughout the film, in all situations, which showed how predictable and consistent this behavior pattern was and how integral it was to her personality. Another consistent and predictable behavior Dorothy showed was crying and becoming distressed when things did not go her way. She behaved this way when Miss Gulch took her dog, when she could not get in to see the Wizard, when she was trapped in the witch’s castle, and when she missed her ride home on the hot air balloon (Fleming, & LeRoy, 1939). According to behaviorist theory, crying and showing her distress had been reinforced for Dorothy by leading to positive consequences, and causing her to learn the behavior as a way of coping with difficult circumstances. In the film this behavior is reinforced by leading to sympathy from her aunt, allowing her access to the Wizard, and bringing the good witch to show her how to get home (Fleming, & LeRoy, 1939).
Mead (2009) approached the absence of consciousness in behaviorist theory by stating that, although its existence cannot be denied and consciousness cannot be reduced to purely behavioristic terms, it is possible to account for consciousness in behavioristic terms. He claimed that consciousness can be viewed functionally, and “mental behavior or phenomena can be explained in terms of non-mental behavior or phenomena,” as a consequence of non-mental behavior (Mead, 2009, p. 7). Mead (2009) proposed that attitudes make up the self, and are distinct from habits. Self-consciousness is a realization of attitudes a person provokes in others and this is important when it elicits specific responses (Mead, 2009). Mead (2009) differentiated between consciousness, which refer to a person’s field of experience; and self-consciousness, which refers to the ability to choose specific sets of responses that are acceptable in a given group. Although Mead’s theory still relied on the reflexive responses to stimuli from behaviorist theory, he attempted to incorporate mental concept of attitudes as a function of behavior (Carpendale, & Racine, 2010). This concept is still being used and developed by Carpendale and Racine (2010) as a basis to examine a person’s perspectives that result, and are learned, from social interactions. Examining Dorothy’s attitudes as a result of previous experience and surroundings can offer more insight into her personality from a behaviorist perspective that is still being applied in current research.
Dorothy displayed both a self-entitled attitude and an altruistic attitude throughout the film. Although these may seem like opposite attitudes Dorothy differed in these depending on who she was interacting with. When interacting with her aunt and uncle, and also occasionally along her journey, Dorothy chose a self-entitled attitude. However, whenever she came across a new acquaintance in need her attitude was only one of concern for their well-being. According to behaviorist theory these attitudes, or sets of responses, were learned in order to provoke particular responses. Dorothy likely learned her self-entitled attitude from being the only child on her farm which would mean she was always cared for and looked after without having to consider another’s needs. She was generally free to entertain herself and do as she liked, and had only really had herself to consider. However, when she was alone and in need and came across others who were alone and in need her attitude changed to an altruistic one. This could have been because she had learned the behavior from the adults in her life whom she had seen react this way when someone was in need. Once Dorothy was surrounded by others who were similar to her she changed her attitude and behaved the way she had seen her aunt behave back home.
This paper described Dorothy’s Gales personality using current developments from personality trait theory and currently applied concepts from behaviorist theory. According to personality trait theory, Dorothy’s stable patterns of behavior throughout The Wizard of Oz show that she was an extrovert who easily made friends as well as became anxious in difficult situations. Although Dorothy was not self-discipline or organized, and rebelled against her aunt and uncle, she was curious about new places and pleasant to those she met there. According to behaviorist theory, Dorothy was honest and trusting, but she cried and showed her anguish when circumstances did not go her way. She showed a generous attitude to those in need in an unknown land, but had a self-entitled attitude toward adults at home. Although Dorothy’s personality was not ideally heroic, it was realistic according to her circumstances and allowed her to make it through her journey and safely home.


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