Prominent SocialCognitive Theories
433 The Social-Cognitive Approach behavior. Do introverts and extraverts decide to act as they do? Can they behave otherwise? And how do they feel about their actions and experiences (Cervone & Shoda, 1999)? Some personality psychologists are linking their research with that of cognitive psychologists in an effort to better understand how thoughts and emotions inﬂuence, and are inﬂuenced by, personality traits (Shoda & LeeTiernan, 2002). The trait approach has also been criticized for offering a short list of traits that provides, at best, a ﬁxed and rather shallow description of personality that fails to capture how traits combine to form a complex and dynamic individual (Block, 2001; Funder, 2001). Even if the big-ﬁve model of personality proves to be correct and universal, its factors are not all-powerful. Situations, too, affect behavior. For example, people high in extraversion are not always sociable. Whether they behave sociably depends, in part, on where they are and who else is present. In fairness, early trait theorists such as Allport acknowledged the importance of situations in inﬂuencing behavior, but it is only recently that consideration of personsituation interactions has become an important part of trait-based approaches to personality. This change is largely the result of research conducted by psychologists who have taken a social-cognitive approach to personality, which we describe next. The Social-Cognitive Approach 䉴 Do we learn our personalities? To social-cognitive researchers, psychodynamic theories place too much emphasis on unconscious forces in personality and trait theories presume more consistency in people’s behavior than there really is. In contrast, researchers who take a socialcognitive approach see personality as the full set of behaviors that people have acquired through learning and that they then display in particular situations. Some aspects of this approach reﬂect the view of traditional behaviorists, namely that all behavior is learned through classical and operant conditioning (see the chapter on learning). However, the social-cognitive approach expands that view by emphasizing (1) the role played by learned patterns of thinking in guiding behavior and (2) the fact that personality is learned in social situations as people observe and interact with other people (Bandura & Walters, 1963; Funder, 2004). The social-cognitive approach is sometimes called the social-learning approach because it deﬁnes personality as the sum of the behaviors and cognitive habits that develop as people learn through experience in the social world. Social-cognitive theorists are interested in how our thinking affects our behavior, as well as how our behavior and its consequences affect our thinking and our future actions. Prominent Social-Cognitive Theories Julian Rotter, Albert Bandura, and Walter Mischel have presented the most inﬂuential social-cognitive personality theories. social-cognitive approach An approach that views personality as a label summarizing the unique patterns of thinking and behavior that a person learns. Rotter’s Expectancy Theory Julian Rotter (1982) argued that learning creates cognitions known as expectancies and that these expectancies guide behavior. He suggested that a person’s decision to engage in a behavior is determined by (1) what the person expects to happen following the behavior and (2) the value the person places on the outcome. For example, people spend a lot of money on new clothes to wear at job interviews because past learning leads them to expect that doing so will help get them the job, and they place a high value on having the job. To Rotter, then, behavior is shaped by the positive or negative consequences it brings and also by the expectancy that a particular behavior will be rewarded or punished (Mischel, Shoda, & Smith, 2004). Personality researchers inﬂuenced by Rotter have suggested that in addition to learning expectancies about particular behaviors in particular situations, we also learn more 434 Chapter 11 Personality P B E B = Behavior E = The external environment P = Personal factors, such as thoughts, feelings, and biological events FIGURE 11.4 Reciprocal Determinism Bandura’s notion of reciprocal determinism suggests that thoughts, behavior, and the environment are constantly affecting each other. For example, a person’s hostile thoughts might lead to hostile behavior, which generates even more hostile thoughts. At the same time, the hostile behavior offends others, thus creating a threatening environment that causes the person to think and act in even more negative ways. As increasingly negative thoughts alter the person’s perceptions of the environment, that environment seems to be more threatening than ever (e.g., Bushman et al., 2005). general expectancies, especially about how life’s rewards and punishments are controlled (e.g., Phares, 1976). Some people (called internals) come to expect that events are controlled mainly by their own efforts. These people assume, for example, that what they achieve and the rewards they get are determined by what they themselves do. Others (externals) tend to expect events to be controlled by external forces over which they have no control. So when externals succeed, they tend to believe that their success was based on chance or luck. Research on differences in generalized expectancies does show that they are correlated with differences in behavior. For example, when threatened by a hurricane or other natural disaster, internals—in accordance with their belief that they can control what happens to them—are more likely than externals to buy bottled water and make other preparations (Sattler, Kaiser, & Hittner, 2000). Internals also tend to work harder than externals at staying physically healthy, and as a result may lower their risk of cancer and heart disease (Stürmer, Hasselbach, & Amelang, 2006). They are less likely to drink alcohol, or—if they do drink—to drive while intoxicated (Cavaiola & Desordi, 2000). Internals tend to be more careful with money (Lim, Teo, & Loo, 2003), and internal college students tend to be better informed about the courses they take, including what they need to do to get a high grade. Perhaps as a result, internals tend to get better grades than externals (Dollinger, 2000). In his social-cognitive theory, Albert Bandura (1999, 2006) sees personality as shaped by the ways in which thoughts, behavior, and the environment interact and inﬂuence one another. He points out that whether people learn through direct experience with rewards and punishments or through watching what happens to others, their behavior creates changes in their environment. Observing these changes, in turn, affects how they think, which then affects their behavior, and so on in a constant web of mutual inﬂuence that Bandura calls reciprocal determinism (see Figure 11.4). An especially important cognitive element in this mutual-inﬂuence system is perceived self-efﬁcacy, the learned expectation of success. Bandura says that what we do and what we try to do are largely controlled by our perceptions or beliefs about the chances of success at a particular task or problem. People with a high degree of perceived self-efﬁcacy believe that they can successfully perform a behavior regardless of past failures or current obstacles. So the higher your perceived self-efﬁcacy is in a particular situation or task, the greater your actual accomplishments in that situation or task are likely to be (Zimmerman & Schunk, 2003). For example, going into a job interview believing that you have the skills for the job may help you to get the job. (Perhaps you recall the classic children’s story The Little Engine That Could: Trying to get up a steep hill, the scared little engine starts by saying “I think I can, I think I can” and ends up saying “I know I can, I know I can.” And it did.) According to Bandura, self-efﬁcacy interacts with expectancies about the outcome of behavior in general, and the result of this interplay helps to shape a person’s psychological well-being (Bandura, 1997; Maddux & Gosselin, 2003). So if a person has low self-efﬁcacy and also expects that nothing anyone does has much effect on the world, apathy may result. But if a person with low self-efﬁcacy believes that other people enjoy the beneﬁts of their efforts, the result may be self-criticism and depression. Bandura and Reciprocal Determinism Social-cognitive theorists argue that learned beliefs, feelings, and expectancies characterize each individual and make that individual different from other people. Walter Mischel calls these characteristics cognitive person variables. He believes that they outline the dimensions along which individuals differ (Mischel & Shoda, 1999). According to Mischel, the most important cognitive person variables are (1) encodings (the person’s beliefs about the environment and other people), (2) expectancies (including self-efﬁcacy and what results the person expects will follow from various behaviors), (3) affects (feelings and emotions), (4) goals and values (the things a person Mischel’s Cognitive/Affective Theory self-efﬁcacy According to Bandura, the learned expectation of success in given situations. The Social-Cognitive Approach 435 Like the rest of us, Arnold Schwarzenegger behaves differently in different situations, including when acting in his Terminator movies and when serving as the governor of California. Mischel’s theory of personality emphasizes that person-situation interactions are important in determining behavior. THE IMPACT OF SITUATIONS believes in and wants to achieve), and (5) competencies and self-regulatory plans (the things the person can do and the ability to thoughtfully plan behaviors; Mischel & Shoda, 1999). To predict how a person might behave in a particular situation, says Mischel, we need to know about these cognitive person variables and about the features of that situation. In short, the person and the situation interact to produce behavior. Mischel’s ideas have been called an “if-then” theory, because he proposes that if people encounter a particular situation, then they will engage in the characteristic behaviors (called behavioral signatures) that they typically show in this situation (Kammrath, MendozaDenton, & Mischel, 2005). Mischel was once highly critical of the trait approach to personality, but now he sees his own theory as generally consistent with that approach. In fact, the concept of behavioral signatures is quite similar to the concept of traits. However, Mischel still argues that trait theorists underestimate the power of situations to alter behavior and do not pay enough attention to the cognitive and emotional processes that underlie people’s overt actions. Despite their remaining differences, most advocates of the trait and social-cognitive approaches are now focusing on the similarities between their views (Cervone, 2005; Fleeson, 2004). This search for similarities between the trait approach and the social-cognitive approach has helped to clarify the relationship between personal and situational variables and how they affect behavior under various conditions. Many of the conclusions that have emerged are consistent with Bandura’s concept of reciprocal determinism: 1. Personal dispositions (which include traits and cognitive person variables) inﬂuence behavior only in relevant situations. The trait of anxiousness, for example, may predict anxiety, but mainly in situations in which an anxious person feels threatened. 2. Personal dispositions can lead to behaviors that alter situations that, in turn, promote other behaviors. For example, a hostile child can trigger aggression in others and thus start a ﬁght. 3. People choose to be in situations that are in accord with their personal dispositions. Introverts, for instance, are likely to choose quiet environments, whereas extraverts tend to seek out livelier, more social circumstances.