Similar to the behavioral theories in assuming that:

      Personality is formed via interaction with the environment.

      Behavior is largely environmentally determined and situation specific.

Different in emphasizing that:

      Mental processes and their effects on behavior are key to understanding personality.

      People differ in the ways they think about themselves, other people, and the world;

            These cognitions (rather than “traits”) are key to understanding personality, and

            Cognitions can be measured systematically.

            Cognitive change is the key to personality change.




The Trait Controversy

   The Consistency Paradox:    Discrepancy between intuitive belief that people are consistent and the empirical findings that indicates that people are inconsistent.

    The Situational Context of Behavior: The “solution” to the paradox.

            The average relationship between self-report personality measures and behavior: r = .30

            Little consistency across situations, but consistency across time within similar situations

            Situational hedges:  "Person does x when y."

            "Johnny will hit back [behavior] when teased [situational hedge]."

        Meaningful combinations of behavior with situation are consistent for various normal personality traits, e.g. aggressive, friendly, withdrawn

            Traits “redefined” as learned ways of adapting to specific situations


Cognitive Person Variables

Encoding Strategies

    Personal constructs: trait terms used to describe themselves and other people (e.g. hard-working, passionate).

      Situational descriptions

      Descriptions of events

      The descriptions above all vary from one person to another—each person has unique interpretations (meanings) of these stimuli.

    Prototypes = typical examples of "fuzzy" categories


      Behavioral: what can a person do?  Cognitive: what can a person think?

    Not the same as performance (i.e. what a person actually does)


      Expectancies are subjective and determine performance.

      What I expect will determine what I will do.

            Important kinds of expectancies include:

            Behavior-Outcome Expectancies: what will happen if I behave in a particular way?

        Stimulus-Outcome Expectancies: What will happen next?

                        Related to one’s ongoing awareness of the environment.

            Self-Efficacy Expectancies: Can I do it?

                  Notice that: “What will happen if I do X?”  is not the same as “I successfully can do X!”

Subjective Stimulus Values

      Desirability of outcomes (given the particular individual’s goals or values)

            What is the value of the reward?   Not all people will equally value the same outcome.

Self-Regulatory Systems and Plans

    Delay of Gratification: the ability to defer immediate gratification for a larger future goal.

            An important self-regulatory system—or ego control—a core “ego strength”

            What helps children learn to delay gratification?

            What are the future consequences for children who do not learn to delay gratification?

                  Research with children (and into adulthood)

                  Visibility of reward (more difficult to delay)

                  Thinking about something else (less difficult to delay, and can be taught)

                  Modeling (another effective training technique)

                  Authoritative (compared to permissive) mothers are more likely to teach children the ability to delay gratification.

                        Predicts cognitive & social competence years later in that preschool children who are better able to delay gratification become high school students who:

                        are more attentive and able to concentrate

                        are better able to verbally express themselves (i.e. put their ideas into words)

                        are less impulsive and more reasonable

                        cope with stress and frustration more calmly and maturely




Reciprocal Determinism: mutual (bi-directional) influences of

B: behavior P: person          E: environment


Self-Regulation of Behavior: The Self-System

People control their own behavior (are self-directed), but vary in how effectively they exert this control.

How do people regulate their behavior?

By adapting goals, then observing, evaluating, modifying, and eventually rewarding one’s behavior as we attempt to achieve these goals.

      self-observation (of performance)

      judgmental process (standards)

      self-response (e.g., rewards)

Self-Regulation Processes

      Self-Efficacy = believing that one can do what needs to be done to achieve a goal.

      Is specific to particular behaviors.

      Can be changed by learning.

      High self-efficacy results in more effort and persistence at a task; low self-efficacy contributes to discouragement and quickly abandoning a task.

            As a result, more confidence = better performance, more likely to reach goals (assuming confidence is realistic).

      Efficacy is not the same as “outcome expectations”

    Physiological Correlates of Self-Efficacy
            Self-efficacy is correlated with immune system functioning under stress.

            Research finding:  low self-efficacy when performing a stressful task interferes with immune system functioning (i.e., situation is less stressful when approached with high self-efficacy—I can cope.)

Processes Influencing Learning

      Attentional Processes: Noticing/Observing the Model’s Behavior

                  What helps?

          Model: distinctive, affective valence, complexity, prevalence, functional value

            Observer: sensory capacities, arousal level, motivation, perceptual set, past reinforcement

            Retention Processes: Remembering the Behavior--Putting it into memory

                  Symbolic coding, cognitive organization, symbolic rehearsal, motor rehearsal

      Motor Reproduction Processes: Doing It--and being able to do it

            physical capabilities

            availability of component responses

            self-observation of reproductions

            accuracy feedback

      Motivational Processes: Wanting It--Deciding that it is worth doing

                  Learning is not the same as performance.

            external reinforcement

            vicarious reinforcement



Observational Learning or Modeling: also called vicarious learning or imitative learning

Learning can occur without reinforcement.

Identification and Modeling

      Power vs. Status effects

            More powerful models are more influential than more attractive models

Models can also influence standards for behavior (standards necessary to self-reinforce)

      With “superior standards” models, young boys demand better performance of themselves on a bowling task before rewarding themselves.

Modeling of Aggression

      Filmed models (television, movies, videogames)

            Remember learning is not always evident in immediate performance.



      Use behavioral learning principles, plus

      Change self-efficacy expectations, especially for phobias and other anxiety disorders.

            Clients often think more about their inability to manage their anxiety than the danger in the situation.

            Remember that low efficacy expectations are not the same as low outcome expectations!

            High self-efficacy leads to persistence toward our goals (including therapy goals).

Changing Efficacy Expectations Through Therapy

      Performance accomplishments--Mode of induction:

            participant modeling, performance desensitization, performance exposure, self-instructed performance

      Vicarious experience--Mode of induction:

            live modeling, symbolic modeling

      Verbal persuasion--Mode of induction:

            suggestion, exhortation, self-instruction, interpretive treatments,

      Emotional arousal--Mode of induction:

            attribution,  relaxation, biofeedback, symbolic desensitization, symbolic exposure

Efficacy and striving toward goals: the goals we set are important.


The Person in the Social Environment

Collective efficacy:  as a group we can do what needs to be done; can help achieve difficult goals that one person would not have been able to accomplish alone.

Moral disengagement: failure to regulate one’s behavior to live up to high moral standards; people “turn off” their moral standards by a variety of techniques (e.g., “ends justifies the means”, displacing responsibility, dehumanizing victims)