An Anti-Introspectivist View of Career Decision Making

By Krieshok, Thomas S. | Career Development Quarterly, March 1998 | Go to article overview

An Anti-Introspectivist View of Career Decision Making


Krieshok, Thomas S., Career Development Quarterly


This article reviews 50 years of empirical literature on career decision making, summarizing 10 things the field knows "for sure." An anti-introspectivist view of career decision making is then presented, developed by applying findings from cognitive and experimental social psychology to career decision making. This view holds that most processing performed by the human mind for decision making and behavior initiation is not performed at a conscious level and that reflection on those processes may be futile, and detrimental to good decisions. Although the anti-introspectivist perspective challenges many strongly held assumptions, it provides a plausible explanation of some of the difficulties encountered by decision makers and those who counsel them.

Theories of career development and career counseling converge on a few critical issues, one of which is the actual processes used to arrive at career decisions. This article addresses the career decisionmaking literature in three sections: first by briefly reviewing the past 50 years of empirical literature on career decision making, summarized as 10 things the field knows "for sure"; second, by presenting what might be termed an anti-introspectivist (AI) view of career decision making, developed largely by applying findings from cognitive and experimental social psychology to career decision making; and finally, by describing several points of tension between the Al perspective and current theories of career decision making. Although the AI perspective challenges many strongly held assumptions, it provides a plausible explanation of some of the difficulties encountered by decision makers and those whose task is to counsel them through the decision-making process. It is presented as a testable position that could shape career development research efforts over the next 50 years.

TEN THINGS THE FIELD KNOWS FOR SURE ABOUT CAREER DECISION MAKING

Rather than a review of the literature, this first section might be seen as a review of the reviews. No effort was made to thoroughly review the multitude of studies on career decision making. Instead, we relied heavily on previous reviews of that literature. These include the annual reviews offered through the Career Development Quarterly and the Journal of Vocational Behavior, as well as several reviews specific to career decision making (Gelatt, 1962; Hazler & Roberts, 1984; Hilton, 1962; Jepsen & Dilley, 1974; Mitchell & Krumboltz, 1984; Osipow,1990; Phillips, 1992; Pitz & Harren, 1980; Walsh & Osipow, 1988). Given this article's emphasis on the empirical literature, most of the theoretical literature is not included, except as it accompanied empirical analyses. Much of the career decision-making literature is theoretical in nature, because the field is always developing models to further the understanding of decision making in order to deliver improved interventions.

These may not be the 10 most important things, or things about which the field can be absolutely confident, but they are propositions for which there is considerable agreement in the literature, especially the more recent literature. In each case, only a few of the studies supporting the proposition have been cited, but in most cases many similar studies exist.

1. Counselors can assess decidedness, career decision-making skills, career decision-making self-efficacy, and vocational identity.

Decidedness, career decision-making skills, career decision-making self-efficacy, and vocational identity are the principal constructs in the study of career decision making. The field of career development shows surprising agreement on the definitions of each and has developed multiple measures of most of them: Vocational identity is included in the discussion of decision making, partly because of its strong correlation to measures of decidedness (Holland, Johnston, & Asama, 1993) and also (at least as defined by Holland, Daiger, & Power, 1980) because it behaves more like a measure of decidedness than a more global measure of identity (Vondracek, 1992). …

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