Implicit Personality Theories about the Stability of Behavior and Aspects of Volitional Behavior Control-Necessary Expansions of Carol Dweck's Motivation Process Model?

By Schober, Barbara | Psychologische Beiträge, January 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

Implicit Personality Theories about the Stability of Behavior and Aspects of Volitional Behavior Control-Necessary Expansions of Carol Dweck's Motivation Process Model?


Schober, Barbara, Psychologische Beiträge


5.1 Aims of current research

5.1.1 Introduction

If a student believes that his/her mathematical abilities are unchanging characteristics then, when faced by a demanding situation, this student will rarely be concerned with the opportunity to learn something new, but rather view it more as a situation where competences are to be shown or failure is to be avoided. This combination of stable, implicit ability theory and the unfavorable motivational orientation associated with it, according to Carol Dweck makes the prediction of the development of helpless behavior in failure situations possible. The Motivation Process Model (Dweck & Leggett, 1988) formulated by Dweck and her associates, is based on the assumption that helpless behavior patterns, particularly in performance situations, can be determined through goals that are set and sought, and that these goals are in turn promoted by specific theories held about one's own abilities.

Especially in the area of mathematics and the natural sciences numerous studies have shown that many students, particularly female students, do not perform up to their scholastic potential and exhibit symptoms of learned helplessness (e.g. Beerman, Heller & Menacher, 1992). Empirical works published until now confirm the usefulness of the Motivational Process Model in explaining the symptoms of helplessness in a scholastic context (e.g. Broome, 1998; Ziegler, Heller & Broome 1996). The findings are, nevertheless, not uniform, certain questions remain unresolved and at this point of time the Dweck model cannot be considered to be sufficient to explain scholastic helpless behavior.

Two possible expansions, which could provide the model with more power, and which would integrate various theoretical approaches and offer a starting point for the alteration of helplessness, are concerned with both, the core concept of implicit personality theories (IPT), and volitional psychological aspects. Previously, the possible significance of implicit theories for the stability of one's own behavior patterns in the genesis of helplessness has been fully ignored in the Dweck model, although particularly in the scholastic area, the belief in the alterability of one's own diligence would be of extreme relevance (see section 5.2.2).

In addition, (especially in the context of theories about the stability of behavior patterns) a reference to volitional aspects could also be profitable: IPT's, according to Dweck, play a central role in the regulation of action as well as in the development of goals and intention (that is the question of whether learning or performance goals will be chosen). But what role do they play in the realisation of intention? Kuhl (1998) faces similar issues when he pleads for supplementation to classic cognitive and motivational approaches to the explanation of helplessness with a "functional" interpretation of this phenomenon. He proposes a more precise analysis of intentional action control in this context. There are various points in Dweck's model which are particularly open to the prospect of connection to volitional psychological aspects.

The goal of the following chapter is to discuss both theoretically as well as - in a somewhat explorative way - empirically the possibility of making these expansions.

5.1.2 Theoretical Background

The antecedent factors of the genesis of helplessness in the Motivation Process Model (Dweck & Leggett, 1988). Why is it that some students, after experiencing trivial failures, believe that they are not capable of performing well in mathematics. Why is it that they give up, and are not able to use these failures as information indicating to them what they should improve in the future? Traditional answers refer to a lack of self-confidence, low selfconcepts of own ability or simply lack of interest. In contrast, Carol Dweck and her colleagues in their "Social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality" (Dweck & Leggett, 1988) focus on self-related cognitions such as implicit theories on the alterability of one's own talent and see them as the crucial determinants of motivational events, particularly the genesis of the symptoms of helplessness (e. …

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