The influence of psychology theories towards understanding human behavior in terms of individual and group reactions and variables is very important. No single theory can give a wholesome explanation to the multiple variables that have an overbearing influence on behavior. This calls for the need of various theories to help understand the different aspects of human behavior. The big five factor theory helps shed light towards the formation of human personalities and why different individuals exhibit different emotions, behaviors, and reactions when dealing with differing social situations. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is essential towards shedding light on the effect of the satisfaction of needs towards determining human behavior and interactions. Individuals who possess negative personalities are associated with having some unsatisfied needs while individuals who are full of self confidence and will show positive emotions and personalities. The social learning theory is essential towards discovery of the learning and development process and how this influences the behavior of individuals and groups. It also explains why due to different levels of interaction and exposure to the environment, different individuals acquire different levels of success in learning. Each theory can be used to complement the other to gain greater insights into human behavior.

Big Five Personality Theory

Introduction

            Psychology refers to the study involving or relating to the human mind and the behavior of man. The main aim of psychology is to gain an intricate understanding of how and why both individuals and groups of people behave the way they do and what are the underlying causes of their behavior patterns. The secondary goal is however to understand man in order to benefit society at large. There are many factors at play when an individual reacts or behaves in a certain way and there are also factors that determine how a person will interact and behave in the group situation. There are many theories that discuss and try to expound on different aspects of human behavior and this will be discussed in depth in the essay to try and shed light into human behavior and offer possible plausible explanations.

Literature Review

Big Five Personality Theory

The theory referred to as the Big Five personality theory has been revolutionary towards gaining an insight into the academic behavior of students in different institutions and levels of learning. The theory is based on five main factors which include neuroticism, agreeableness, extraversion, openness and conscientiousness.  These traits are considered essential in the personality composition and are influential towards learning. These are collective referred to with the acronym OCEAN (Veselka, Shermer and Vernon, 2011).

Extraversion as a trait is rather broad. It is exhibited as the increased level of socialization. Individuals who are viewed as extroverts are viewed as being very talkative and are assertive in nature in the life and dealings with others. The assertiveness is especially vibrant when in a group setup. Extroversion is associated with emotions that are viewed as positive and a need for company and socialization. Extroverts do not thrive in situations where they are supposed to be alone or to operate singly. Such individuals are not known to be withdrawn or individualistic. The reverse trait to extroversion is introversion. Individuals who are considered as being introverted will in most cases exhibit low levels of interaction. They tend to drive in situations that call for individually and may not get noticed when in a group as they rarely attract attention to themselves. There energy is diverted towards individually fulfilling endeavors as opposed to social endeavors (Chapman, 2011).

Conscientiousness relates to individual behavior where a person has a tendency to exhibit extreme self-discipline even in cases where one is expected to go against the social moral fibre and may be exhibit anger or frustrations in a given situation. Individuals who are deemed or viewed as being conscientious are more prone to preference for a planned and organized life. This is visible from how they execute their personal endeavors and how they act in relation to others. These kinds of people are very sensitive to issues such as time and time keeping, arrangement and order. This trait is responsible for how as individuals we organize and direct our activities with varying degrees of conscientiousness being responsible for varying degrees of adherence to order.

Openness is exhibited as an appreciation for things such as art and abstraction. It is also related to the display of curiosity which is present in varying degrees and may be exhibited as a sense of adventure and a knack for imagination and pursuit of new experiences. This trait is essential for learning especially in those subject areas that are not as conventional as mathematics. It is attributable to the innovativeness shown by people in various fields and walks of life. Low levels of openness are associated with individuals who are considered as uptight, traditionalist or conservative in nature. It is believed that the level or degree of openness reduces as we grow old and this explains why in old age, the acceptance of new ideas is very hard (Zentall, 2011).

Agreeableness relates to the tendency to show compassion to others as well as being cooperative. This is the case especially when one may show suspicion and doubt towards a person or an activity. The ability of an individual to get along with other people especially during situations when they are not in agreement is dependent on their levels of agreeableness which vary from individual to individual. This trait may also be exhibited as tolerance towards others even in extreme cases. Individuals who are not agreeable in nature are always bearing suspicion and find it hard to believe that issues or individuals can be as straightforward as they appear.

The last trait in the big five factor theory is neuroticism. Neuroticism relates to tendencies to bear negative feelings or emotions which may include depression, anger and anxiety. Individuals with high levels of neuroticism are more prone to suffer from stress and from depression. Neurotic individuals are sometimes referred to as emotionally unstable due to the many occurrences in which they can outwardly display these negative emotions. Individuals who have low levels of neuroticism have personalities that are considered as less volatile as they mostly steer clear of negative emotions and are not prone to exhibit emotional reactions. In some cases, they may be viewed as cold due to their inability to show their emotions outwardly (Veselka, Schermer and Vernon, 2011).

Maslow’s Theory

Abraham Maslow is the proponent of the theory that relates to needs and their hierarchy as they contribute towards shaping human behavior and personality. The theory has been put into practice in society and one of the main areas it has been applied is the determination of motivational factors in the workplace. The hierarchy is a form a pyramid and a person’s position in the pyramid may explain why they behave the way they do. The full satisfaction of needs in one level promotes an individual to the next level until they continuously move up the pyramid to fully satisfy all their needs. The pyramid that represents the hierarchy of needs has five levels which are physiological, safety, belonging, esteem and self actualization.

Physiological needs relate to the basic needs of a human being that are important for life. These needs are food, water, shelter, air and clothing. These are necessary as basics for life. Sexual gratification is also a basic physiological need whose satisfaction is more out of need for competitiveness among species as opposed to a means of propagating reproduction and sustaining populations. Individuals who have not or are not able to meet these needs fully or to the comfortable levels of life are seen to be at times emotionally detached and may even be susceptible to stress and depression as they try to figure out the world in order to fit in.

Safety needs come next in the hierarchy of needs. Safety needs relate to the human need for security. This category of needs is very important towards shaping individual and group behavior. The feeling of safety and security determines the aggressiveness shown by different individuals. A person who feels insecure is more prone to displays of violence or aggressiveness as they try to consolidate and safeguard their personal safety. The level of safety may also be economic where an individual will feel the need to provide for themselves or for individuals under their care. This is seen in the case of workers agitating for pay increases as they seek to safeguard their economic security. There are four main classifications of the different kinds of security that an individual may want to guarantee. These include health, personal safety, financial security and security against contingency adverse events (Zentall, 2011).

Belonging needs relate to issues touching on intimacy, family and friendship. This is exhibited as an innate need for companionship. An individual who has not fulfilled this need will always seek to be with others and will seek their approval in order to feel as if they belong. Human beings are social in nature and cannot thrive in solitary life hence the need to belong and to develop friendship and intimacy with others. The need for intimacy is exhibited in everyday life when there are stories of love and heartbreaks which occur as individuals seek fulfillment of the belonging needs. The level of fulfillment of this need is both sexual and non-sexual in nature. Individuals who find it hard to fulfill this need are prone to signs of withdrawn which may lead to stress as well as depression if they remain unsatisfied. This may also lead to social anxiety and sufferers may be prone to claiming they are feeling lonely (Seligman, 2011).

Human beings in all their pursuit have an underlying need to be respected and to gain a sense of self esteem. Self esteem determines the confidence we have that we will be found as likable and thus acceptable by others either as part of a family, group or organization. The need for self esteem is sub divided into two categories with some individuals exhibiting lower self esteem needs and others higher needs. Individuals who have lower esteem needs usually look forward to receive respect from others and are more interested in acquiring status, fame, attention and prestige. This is responsible for individuals who appear as pushy and who may be accused of showing off. The higher level of esteem needs is exhibited as need for mastery, expertise, self respect, confidence in oneself and the feeling of freedom. This is responsible for individuals who are viewed as being driven and goal oriented as opposed to those who must be supervised and who are in need of the acclamation of others (Saeednia, 2009).

The last level of needs in the hierarchy is the need for self actualization.  This is a level that is rarely attained by many in society. It is the innate need to fulfill one’s full potential and to exceed the set limits that people or society has set for people. It does not manifest as the need to become renowned but rather to become the best at something one has chosen as central to whom they are. Some individuals may opt to become model parents while others may choose to be the best in their careers whether professional or vocational. This level of needs is usually satisfied after all other levels of needs in the hierarchy pyramid (Saeednia and Md Nor, 2010).

Social Learning Theory

The social learning theory was advanced by Albert Bandura. The theory has four stages which are referred to as imitation stages and they include role-model behavior, understanding concepts, close contact and the imitation of people who are considered as superiors. The social learning theory contends that learning in human beings occurs through continuous interaction with the immediate environment and with other people. This is commonly referred to as experiential learning. In addition, the theory contends that learning milestones or curves are specific to each individual as each individual has different levels of interaction with the environment. The learning process is mirrored by having two thought processes, illogical and logical thought processes (Mindi and Dahling).  Learning is attained or undertaken through reinforcements and punishments which guide the process of behavior formation. Positive reinforcements relates to stimulus that are used with a view to increasing the occurrence of a certain behavior while negative reinforcement are used to decrease the chances of occurrence of a behavior. Punishments on the other hand are also used to model behavior. A negative punishment is usually something in an individual’s life or environment that is removed or decreased in order to eliminate a certain behavior while positive punishments are added in order to increase a specific behavior (Seligman, 2011).

The learning process according to the social learning theory is characterized by a change in the attentive ability, memory as well as cognitive organization. Fruitful learning is exhibited by an increase in attention, improved memory capacity and better cognitive organization. Social learning theory is used to explain why individuals who grow up different societies are prone to exhibit different personalities and different behavior patterns.

Summary

            The influence of psychology theories towards understanding human behavior in terms of individual and group reactions and variables is very important. No single theory can give a wholesome explanation to the multiple variables that have an overbearing influence on behavior. This calls for the need for various theories to help understand the different aspects of human behavior. The big five factor theory helps shed light towards the formation of human personalities and why different individuals exhibit different emotions, behaviors and reactions when dealing with differing social situations. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is essential towards shedding light on the effect of the satisfaction of needs towards determining human behavior and interactions. Individuals who possess negative personalities are associated with having some unsatisfied needs while individuals who are full of self confidence and will show positive emotions and personalities. The social learning theory is essential towards discovery of the learning and development process and how this influences the behavior of individuals and groups. It also explains why due to different levels of interaction and exposure to the environment, different individuals acquire different levels of success in learning. Each theory can be used to complement the other to gain greater insights into human behavior.

Psychology is a broad subject and having all the answers is virtually impossible. However, having different theories proves helpful towards giving suitable insights. Personalities, learning, needs, cognition, abnormality and behavior are all areas of interest in psychology and all have theories that give innumerable detail that is helpful towards forming a bigger picture of the causes and variables that shape human behavior in the individual and group setup.