The Development of Self-Regulated Decision Making
James P. Byrnes
University of Maryland
Over the past 50 years or so, a number of theorists have found it useful to ground their perspectives in the construct of adaptation (e.g., Anderson, 1991; Bjorklund & Pellegrini, 2000; Jordan & Rumelhart, 1995; Piaget, 1952; Shrager & Siegler, 1998; Stanovich & West, 2000; Todd & Gigerenzer, 2000). Although these perspectives differ in important ways, most seem to converge on the following characterization of adaptive tendencies: (a) People have mental representations that correspond to perceived regularities or relations in the environment (e.g., the belief that smiles evoke friendly responses from other people); (b) these mental representations cause people to behave in certain ways (e.g., smile); (c) experience tends to promote changes in mental representations that serve to increase a person's success in the environment ; and (d) humans are unique in their tendency to use various strategies or cognitive shortcuts to overcome limitations on their reasoning abilities (and be more successful than they otherwise would be).
In this chapter, I present a model of decision making (i.e., the Self- Regulation Model [SRM]) that is grounded in similar assumptions. My colleagues and I constructed this model in the mid-1990s and framed it in terms of the construct of adaptation for the following reasons. First, there was a need for a truly developmental model of decision making that could explain the wide range of choices that are normally made by children, adolescents, and adults (Byrnes, 1998; Furby & Beyth-Marom, 1992). Existing models either lacked a developmental mechanism or were designed to explain only certain kinds of decisions (e.g., gambling) or certain phenomena