Attributional Beliefs of Persons With Mild Mental Retardation
Lisa A. Turner University of South Alabama
For some time, research in the area of mental retardation (MR) has focused on cognitive deficits. These deficits, as measured by IQ, are one of the defining features of MR. Numerous studies have identified the cognitive deficits (e.g., Ellis, 1970), developed procedures to remediate them (e.g., Brown & Barclay, 1976), and suggested methods to promote generalization of newly trained skills (e.g., Turner, Dofny, & Dutka, 1994). Although this focus on cognitive skills has been fruitful, the larger social and emotional experience of persons with MR has often been ignored. If the question, "Do we want smart kids or happy kids?" was asked, a review of the research literature would imply that we are most interested in smart kids.
However, recently, it has become clear that a child's cognitive skills are not independent of his or her social and emotional experience. An influential link between cognition and emotion is an individual's beliefs about the self. A person's belief in his or her ability to impact outcomes influences cognitive activities such as task selection ( Elliot & Dweck, 1988), strategy use ( Turner, Dofny, & Dutka, 1994), and persistence ( Andrews & Debus, 1978). These attributional beliefs also influence the self-conscious evaluate emotions of pride and shame ( Lewis, 1993). An individual who experiences success and attributes that success to factors within his or her control will experience pride. However, if success is attributed to factors outside of the individual, pride will not be the resultant emotion.
Although attributional beliefs are an influential factor in cognition and emotion, there have been few theoretical attempts to integrate these