The Independence of Aptitudes, Interests, and Career Beliefs

Article excerpt

Career decision making has been conceptualized as the logical outcome of an infinitely complex sequence of learning experiences (Krumboltz, 1979). They include instrumental learning experiences, in which people learn from the consequences of their behavior, and associative learning experiences, in which contiguous events produce approach or avoidance responses. Any one person can sample only

small part of the total possible learning opportunities and thus tends to generalize about the self and the world of work based on a restricted set of experiences. As a result of these limited experiences, people develop sets of beliefs that they hold to be "true" regardless of whether they are true in a more objective sense (Krumboltz, 1991). These beliefs, if they accord with reality, influence persons' actions by promoting decisions that yield positive outcomes, other things being equal.

Among those other things are aptitudes and interests. The importance of aptitudes in career counseling, and their prediction of performance, is well established (Bernard & Naylor, 1982). The substantial correlations between general aptitude and performance criteria in the work setting indicate that aptitude is a significant component in career decision making (Gottfredson, 1986). In the broadest sense, general aptitude relates to the kinds of occupations to which one might gain admittance, and the resulting decisions about "suitability" remain an important part of the counseling intervention (Naylor, Elsworth, & Day, 1985).

In addition, interests--what people "like" regardless of their ability--also play an important role in counseling. Holland (1973, 1985) constructed a theory of career decision making that continues as an active stimulus to interest research (Osipow, 1987). Bernard and Naylor (1982), in proposing a model for the delivery of vocational guidance services in secondary schools, reviewed research concerning the unique contributions made by measures of scholastic aptitude and of occupational interests in the career counseling setting. The research investigated the construct validity of the General Theme Scales (GTS) of the first edition of the Career Assessment Inventory (CAI; Johansson, 1975), which purported to measure Holland's (1973) Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional (RIASEC) interest themes.

Factor analyses of the GTS, the Educational Orientation (EO) scale, the Introversion-Extroversion (IE) scale of the CAI, and the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER; 1982) advanced tests of verbal and numerical aptitude yielded three factors (Bernard & Naylor, 1982). They were interpreted as scholastic aptitudes, loading the verbal and numerical aptitude tests; academic interests, loading EO and the I, A, and (in the case of female participants) R themes; and interests in people, loading S, E, and C themes. The factor structure thus indicated two major interest areas and scholastic aptitudes as making distinctive contributions to the understanding of career decision making.

Trait-and-factor career counseling has tended to disregard the potential importance of beliefs. Aptitude theories tend to emphasize suitability, and imply assumptions about ceilings and barriers to what might be possible through training and education. Interest theories tend to reflect what people prefer or want without regard to whether those aspirations are capable of realization, or are rooted in reality. In contrast, beliefs relate more personally to possible outcomes by inhibiting or facilitating the expression of an aptitude or the realization of an interest. Regardless of their objectivity, aptitude and interest measures still encounter personal beliefs with which they might or might not accord. Beliefs affect the way people approach decisions about work, and their possible adjustment, satisfaction, and success.

The Career Beliefs Inventory (CBI; Krumboltz, 1991) measures 25 belief schemata representing salient themes in beliefs about the self in relation to work. …