CHAPTER 12

ROTTER AND MISCHEL:

COGNITIVE SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY

 

LECTURE OUTLINE

I.††††† Overview of Cognitive Social Learning Theory

†††††† Both Julian Rotter and Walter Mischel believe that cognitive factors, more than immediate reinforcements, determine how people will react to environmental forces. Each suggests that our expectations of future events are major determinants of performance. Like Bandura, both Rotter and Mischel built a theory of personality on human studies.

 

II.†††† Biography of Julian Rotter

†††††† Julian Rotter was born in Brooklyn in 1916. As a high-school student, he became familiar with some of the writings of Freud and Adler, but he did not major in psychology while at Brooklyn College. However, when he graduated, he had more credits in psychology than in his major, chemistry. In 1941, he received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Indiana University. After World War II, he took a position at Ohio State, where one of his students was Walter Mischel. In 1963,
he moved to the University of Connecticut and has remained there since
his retirement.

 

III.††† Introduction to Rotterís Social Learning Theory

†††††† Rotterís interactionist position holds that human behavior is based largely on the interaction of people with their meaningful environments. Rotter assumes that human personality is learned and can change at any time. However, he also believes that personality has a basic unity, which preserves it from changing as a result of minor or insignificant experiences. In addition, Rotter adopts a goal-directed view of motivation, insisting that we choose courses of action that advance us toward an anticipated goal, a view he refers to as the empirical law of effect.

 

IV.††† Predicting Specific Behaviors

†††††† Human behavior is most accurately predicted by an understanding of four
variables: behavior potential, expectancy, reinforcement value, and the psychological situation.

†††††† A. †††† Behavior Potential

†††††† Behavior potential is the possibility that a particular response will occur at a given time and place in relation to its likely reinforcement. The behavior potential in any situation is a function of both expectancy and reinforcement value.

†††††† B. †††† Expectancy

†††††† Peopleís expectancy in any given situation is their confidence that a particular reinforcement will follow a specific behavior in a specific situation or situations. Expectancies can be either general or specific, and the overall likelihood of success is a function of both generalized and specific expectancies.

†††††† C. †††† Reinforcement Value

†††††† Reinforcement value is a personís preference for any particular reinforcement
over other reinforcements if all are equally likely to occur. The total value
of a reinforcement is equal to its positive aspects minus its negative value. Internal reinforcement is the individualís perception of an event, whereas external reinforcement refers to societyís evaluation of an event. Reinforcement-reinforcement sequences suggest that the value of an event
is a function of oneís expectation that a particular reinforcement will lead to
future reinforcements.

†††††† D. †††† Psychological Situation

†††††† The psychological situation is that part of the external and internal world to which a person is responding. Behavior is a function of the interaction of people with their meaningful environment.

†††††† E.††††† Basic Prediction Formula

†††††† Hypothetically, in any specific situation, behavior can be predicted by the
basic prediction formula, which states that the potential for a behavior to
occur in a particular situation in relation to a given reinforcement is a function of peoplesí expectancy that the behavior will be followed by that reinforcement in that situation.

 

V.†††† Predicting General Behaviors

†††††† The basic prediction formula is too specific to give clues as to how a person will generally behave.

†††††† A.††††† Generalized Expectancies

†††††† To make more general predictions of behavior, we must know peopleís generalized expectancies, or their expectations based on similar past experience that a given behavior will be reinforced. Generalized expectancies include peopleís needs, or behaviors that move them toward a goal.

†††††† B.††††† Needs

†††††† Needs refer to functionally related categories of behaviors. Rotter listed six broad categories of needs, with each need being related to behaviors that lead to the same or similar reinforcements.

†††††† 1.††††† Categories of Needs

†††††† Rotter listed six broad categories of needs, with each need being related to behaviors that lead to the same or similar reinforcements: (1) recognition-status refers to the need to excel, to achieve, and to have others recognize oneís worth;
(2) dominance is the need to control the behavior of others, to be in charge,
or to gain power over others; (3) independence is the need to be free from the domination of others; (4) protection-dependency is the need to have others take care of us and to protect us from harm; (5) love and affection are needs to be warmly accepted by others and to be held in friendly regard; and (6) physical comfort includes those behaviors aimed at securing food, good health, and
physical security.

†††††† 2.††††† Need Components

†††††† A need complex has three essential components: (1) need potential, or the possible occurrences of a set of functionally related behaviors directed toward the satisfaction of similar goals; (2) freedom of movement, or a personís overall expectation of being reinforced for performing those behaviors that are directed toward satisfying some general need; and (3) need value, or the extent to which people prefer one set of reinforcements to another. Need components are analogous to the more specific concepts of behavior potential, expectancy, and reinforcement value.


††††† C.†††† General Prediction Formula

†††††† Hypothetically, the general prediction formula could be used to make more generalized predictions than those allowed by the basic prediction formula. The general prediction formula states that need potential is a function of freedom of movement and need value. Rotterís two most famous scales for measuring generalized expectancies are the Internal-External Control Scale and the Interpersonal Trust Scale.

†††††† D. †††† Internal and External Control of Reinforcement

†††††† The Internal-External Control Scale (popularly called ďlocus of control scaleĒ) attempts to measure the degree to which people perceive a causal relationship between their own efforts and environmental consequences. People who score high (in the direction of internal control) believe that reinforcement is generally contingent on their own actions or personal traits.

†††††† E.††††† Interpersonal Trust Scale

†††††† The Interpersonal Trust Scale measures the extent to which one expects the word or promise of another person to be true. People with high interpersonal trust are not gullible; rather, they possess many positive and desirable characteristics.

 

VI. †† Maladaptive Behavior

†††††† Rotter defined maladaptive behavior as any persistent behavior that fails to move a person closer to a desired goal. It is usually the result of unrealistically high goals in combination with low ability to achieve them. That is, people often behave inappropriately when their need value is higher than their freedom of movement.

 

VII.†† Psychotherapy

†††††† In general, the goal of Rotterís therapy is to achieve harmony between a clientís freedom of movement and need value. The therapist is actively involved in trying to (1) change the importance of the clientsí goals and (2) eliminate their unrealistically low expectancies for success.

†††††† A. †††† Changing Goals

†††††† Maladaptive behaviors follow from three categories of inappropriate goals: (1) conflict between goals, (2) destructive goals, and (3) unrealistically lofty goals. In the first instance, the therapist attempts to change the need value of one or both goals. In the second case, the therapist points out the negative consequences of
the destructive goal. And in the third case, the therapist helps the client reevaluate
the goal.

†††††† B. †††† Eliminating Low Expectancies

†††††† In helping clients change low expectancies of success, Rotter uses a variety of approaches, including reinforcing positive behaviors, ignoring inappropriate behaviors, giving advice, modeling appropriate behaviors, and pointing out the long-range consequences of both positive and negative behaviors.

 

VIII.Introduction to Mischelís Cognitive-Affective Personality System

†††††† Like Bandura and Rotter, Walter Mischel believes that cognitive factors, such as expectancies, subjective perceptions, values, goals, and personal standards, are important in shaping personality. In his early theory, Mischel seriously questioned the consistency of personality, but more recently, he and Yuichi Shoda have advanced the notion that behavior is also a function of relatively stable personal dispositions and cognitive-affective processes interacting with a particular situation.

 

IX.††† Biography of Walter Mischel

†††††† Walter Mischel was born in Vienna in 1930, the second son of upper-middle-class parents. When the Nazis invaded Austria in 1938, his family moved to the United States and eventually settled in Brooklyn. Mischel received an M.A. from City College of New York and a Ph.D. from Ohio State, where he was influenced by both Julian Rotter and George Kelly. He has held academic positions at Colorado, Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia, where he remains as an active researcher.

 

X.†††† Background of the Cognitive-Affective Personality System

†††††† Mischel originally believed that human behavior was mostly a function of the situation, but presently he has recognized the importance of relatively permanent cognitive-affective units. Nevertheless, Mischelís theory continues to recognize the apparent inconsistency of some behaviors.

†††††† A.††††† Consistency Paradox

†††††† The consistency paradox refers to the observation that, although both laypeople and professionals tend to believe that behavior is quite consistent, research suggests that it is not. Mischel recognizes that, indeed, some traits are consistent over time, but he contends that there is little evidence to suggest that they are consistent from one situation to another.

†††††† B††††† Person-Situation Interaction

†††††† Mischel believes that behavior is best predicted from an understanding of the person, the situation, and the interaction between person and situation. Thus, behavior is not the result of some global personality trait, but of peopleís perceptions of themselves in a particular situation.

 

XI.††† Cognitive-Affective Personality System

†††††† However, Mischel does not believe that inconsistencies in behavior are due solely to the situation; he recognizes that inconsistent behaviors reflect stable patterns of variation within a person. He and Shoda see these stable variations in behavior in the following framework: If A, then X; but if B, then Y. For example, people may react with deference toward an authority figure, but in a different situation, they may react with aggression. This pattern of variability in peopleís behavior is their behavioral signature, or their unique and stable pattern of behaving differently in different situations.

†††††† A.††††† Behavior Prediction

†††††† Mischelís basic theoretical position for predicting and explaining behavior is as follows: If personality is a stable system that processes information about the situation, then individuals encountering different situations should behave differently as situations vary. Therefore, Mischel believes that, even though peopleís behavior may reflect some stability over time, it tends to vary as situations vary.

†††††† B.††††† Situation Variables

†††††† Situation variables include all those stimuli that people attend to in a given situation. In some cases, situation variables are more powerful than personal variables, but in other cases, the reverse is true.

†††††† C.†††† Cognitive-Affective Units

†††††† Cognitive-affective units include all those psychological, social, and physiological aspects of people that permit them to interact with their environment with some stability in their behavior. Mischel identified five such units.

†††††† 1.††††† Encoding Strategies

†††††† First are encoding strategies, or peopleís individualized manner of categorizing information they receive from external stimuli.

†††††† 2.††††† Competencies and Self-Regulatory Strategies

†††††† Second are the competencies and self-regulatory strategies. One of the most important of these competencies is intelligence, which Mischel argues is responsible for the apparent consistency of other traits. In addition, people use self-regulatory strategies to control their own behavior through self-formulated goals and self-produced consequences.


††††† 3.††††† Expectancies and Beliefs

†††††† Expectancies and beliefs include peopleís guesses about the consequences of each of the different behavioral possibilities. Knowledge of peopleís beliefs about the outcome of any situation is generally a better predictor of behavior than is knowledge of their abilities.

†††††† 4.††††† Goals and Values

†††††† The fourth cognitive-affective unit includes peopleís subjective goals and values, which tend to render behavior fairly consistent.

†††††† 5.††††† Affective Responses

†††††† Mischelís fifth cognitive-affective unit is affective responses, which includes emotions, feelings, and physiological reactions. Affective responses do not
exist in isolation; they influence each other and are inseparable form the
cognitive processes.

 

XII. Related Research

†††††† The theories of both Rotter and Mischel have sparked an abundance of related research, with Rotterís locus of control being one of the most frequently researched areas in psychology and Mischelís notion of delay of gratification and his cognitive-affective personality system also receiving wide attention.

†††††† A.††††† Locus of Control and Health-Related Behaviors

†††††† One adjunct of the locus of control concept is the health locus of control, and research in this area suggests that self-mastery of health and peopleís belief about their personal control over health-related behaviors predict subsequent health status. This body of research has included such health-related behaviors as smoking (Bunch & Schneider, 1991; Norman, 1995), abusing alcohol (Jih, Sirgo, & Thomure, 1995), and unwise eating (Ludtke & Schneider, 1996). In general, this research indicates that people high on internal locus of control, compared
with those high on external locus of control, are more likely to enact
health-related behaviors.

†††††† B.††††† An Analysis of Reactions to the O. J. Simpson Verdict

†††††† Mischel, Shoda, and two of their colleagues (Mendoza-Denton, Ayduk, Shoda, & Mischel, 1997) used the cognitive-affective personality system to analyze the verdict in the O. J. Simpson murder trial. They found that European Americans and African Americans had different ways of looking at the Simpson verdict. Although their reactions tended to follow along racial lines, participantsí race itself was not as important as their thoughts and feelings in determining their reactions to the verdict. More specifically, European Americans who agreed with the verdict had thoughts and emotions very similar to those of African Americans who were elated by the verdict. Moreover, African Americans who disagreed with the verdict thought and felt much the same as European Americans who were dismayed by the not-guilty verdict.

 

XIII.Critique of Cognitive Social Learning Theory

†††††† Cognitive social learning theory combines the rigors of learning theory with the speculative assumption that people are forward-looking beings. We rate it high
on internal consistency, parsimony, and its ability to organize knowledge and generate research, and we rate it about average on its ability to guide action and to be falsified.

 

XIV. Concept of Humanity

†††††† Rotter and Mischel see people as goal-directed, cognitive animals whose perceptions of events are more crucial than the events themselves. Cognition enables different people to see the same situation differently and to place different values on the reinforcers that follow their behavior. Cognitive social learning theory rates very high on social influences and high on uniqueness of the individual, free choice, teleology, and conscious processes. On the dimension of optimism versus pessimism, Rotterís view is slightly more optimistic, whereas Mischelís view is about in the middle.