Memory and Theories

The application of psychological theories are examined and used to further understand memories and situations in one’s past. This paper explores a particular memory and uses theories of development, such as Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory, Skinner’s Operant Conditioning Theory, and Bandura’s Social-Cognitive Theory to analyze reasoning and what would change if it were possible to relive this experience with extensive knowledge on theories of development. Theories of development exhibit explanations of mental growth process and results of the personality.

It is believed that from childbirth through adulthood, people continuously change due to experiences they may encounter.

Through applying these psychological theories of development to situations, past and present, one can better understand how it affects the personality. There are three categories of theories that provide information for all possible aspects of development: psychoanalytic theory, learning theory, and cognitive developmental theory (Boyd, 2012). While exploring a vivid memory, it is these theories that will be used to analyze the situation and determine how they relate.

Specifically, the theories that will be discussed are Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory, Skinner’s Operant Theory, and Bandura’s Social-Cognitive Theory. When analyzing situations, developmental theories can majorly impact the way one can perceive what happened and why.

In first grade, my friend Haley and I were painting at school and she started to paint very aggressively; she would splatter the paint on the page and hit the canvas with the brush, all the while I sat by and watched. The teacher eventually came over and told her to stop, to which she defied and continued on with her actions.

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By the time the period was over there was a colorful disaster in the paint section. The teacher punished Haley by not allowing her to go to recess. Knowing what I know now on psychological theories of development, if I were to go back in time and relive that event, I’m not sure if there is anything I could/would do differently, but I would be capable of appropriately evaluating the significance of specific things that happened. In this memory, two families of theory are prominent: psychoanalytical theory and learning theory.

Psychoanalytical theories are based off of internal drives and emotion which urges changes in behavior (Boyd, 2012). This being said, there is one psychoanalytical theory that applies, which is Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory. Based on the theory that the many stages of personality development each hold goals that must be attained to achieve positive or negative behavioral influence is Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory (Boyd, 2012). It is through this theory that belief lies on the thought that “development resulted from the interaction between internal drives and cultural demands” (Boyd, 2012). This theory applies to the foretold memory in terms of Erikson’s fourth stage, industry versus inferiority: “cultural skills and norms, including school skills and tool use” (Boyd, 2012).

In order to emerge positively from this stage, children need encouragement from adults, which was not present in this particular situation. Erikson’s third psychosocial stage can also relate to the situation from the fact that I was interacting with peers and friends while doing other activities. The third stage is initiative versus guilt: “ability to organize activities around some goal; more assertiveness and aggressiveness” (Boyd, 2012). During this stage children need to interact with peers to have a positive outcome, such as initiative. While psychoanalytical theories play an important role in many scenarios, learning theories are also prominent and useful to analyzing a situation. By determining the cause, you can accurately evaluate a situation with the correct conditions. Psychologist John Watson (1878-1958), the innovator of the learning theory, believed in behaviorism: the view that defines development in terms of behavior changes caused by environmental changes (Boyd, 2012).

In the memory, when Haley was being told by the teacher to stop multiple times, and then eventually sentenced to having no recess, punishment was being enforced. Punishment is, according to B. F. Skinner (1904-1990), anything that follows a behavior and causes it to stop (Boyd, 2012). This is a component of Skinner’s Operant Conditioning Theory, which enforces operant conditioning; learning to repeat or stop behaviors because of their consequences (Boyd, 2012). Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory is also observed within the memory. Bandura’s Social-Cognitive Theory implements observational learning which expresses a belief that learning can occur as a result of watching someone else perform some action and experience reinforcement or punishment rather than learning strictly from personal experience and reinforcement (Boyd, 2012). This relates to the fact that I stood by and watched Haley defy the teacher’s directions and be punished.

By doing this, I would have learned that since she was punished for her actions, I would also be punished if I did the same thing. Learning theories are crucial to modern day psychological theories and developmental theories. Psychological theories of human development play a critical role in understand the mental development of the personality and behavior. These theories allow people to portray cause-effect relations and the significance of a situation. Between the three families of theory, psychoanalytical theory, learning theory, and cognitive-development theory, most of all personality and behavioral changes can be explained or expressed. In this particular scenario, I expressed the relation of Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory, Skinner’s Operant Conditioning Theory, and Bandura’s Social-Cognitive Theory. The application of developmental theories will continue and be enhanced in the future.


  1. Boyd, D., & Bee, H. (2012). Theories of Development. Lifespan Development (sixth ed., pp. 25-50). Boston, MA: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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Memory and Theories. (2022, Mar 08). Retrieved from

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