Person and Situation Interaction Aspects


Mischel's Cognitive-Behavioral Theory


A. Person variables


            a. Definition


            People are confronted with a potential flood of stimuli; how are these stimuli selected, perceived, processed, interpreted, and used by the individual?  They are the psychological qualities of the person that help us to answer these questions from the cognitive social predispositions.  In turn they regulate how new experiences affect him/her.


            b. Person variables vs. Traits


Cognitive-behavioral theory

Trait theory


Basic elements

Person variables:









Individual differences
















** Personality coefficients???




            c. Five person variables:


Summary of Person Variables


Person Variables


1. Encoding Strategies and Personal Constructs: units for categorizing events, people, and the self.

People differ greatly in how encode and group information from stimulus inputs; Mark, a teenager, tends to encode peers in terms of their hostile threats and is highly sensitive to their possible attempts to control him.  Mark will be vigilant to threats.  He may see an innocent accident, such as having push against him in the crowded staircase, as a deliberate violation.

2. Expectations: specific expectancies about the consequences of different behavioral possibilities in situations.

When Mark encodes being pushed by a peer as deliberate violation, will he react with threats?  The answer in part depends on whether he expects that he would win and get peer approval or lose and be humiliated.

3. Subjective Values: the subjective value for individuals of particular classes of events, that is, their stimulus preferences and aversions, their likes and dislikes, their positive and negative values

 People differ in the types of activities they prefer and select for themselves.  Getting peer approval may be important to Mark, but not to other people.  

4. Self-regulatory Systems and Plans: rules and self-reactions for performance and for the organization of complex behavior sequences.

People's self-regulatory standards and self-control systems guide their behavior.  To predict Mark's reaction to being pushed, it helps to know the personal standards he uses to evaluate when and how to react  aggressively.  Will he react aggressively even if his peer who pushed him is much younger than him?

5. Competencies: ability to construct (generate) particular cognitions and behaviors. Related to measures of IQ, social and cognitive (mental) maturity and competence, ego development, social-intellectual achievements and skills.

They refer to what the person knows and can do.  Mark's response depends on his competencies; Is he strong enough to react aggressively to his peer?





B. The consistency paradox


It refers to the fact that we think of people as being quite consistent in their behavior when in reality most people's behavior tends to vary a good deal from situation to situation.


How can the paradox be explained?

--Temporal consistency and cognitive prototypes


            a. Temporal consistency


            Behavior is temporally stable; that is , people react in similar ways when the same or similar situations recur in their lives.  However, Mischel argued that       behavior is not very consistent across different situations (cross-situational consistency) because people are normally context-sensitive.  There is little reason to expect broad cross-situational consistency, but temporal          consistency is likely.




            b. Cognitive prototypes


            When asked to think about a broad behavioral category, people usually call to mind typical behaviors while ignoring less typical behaviors.  The impression of cross-situational consistency is due to the fact that people are temporally consistent on a few behaviors that are most typical of a trait category, which gives the (false) impression of general consistency.  People are sometimes cross-situationally consistent, but primarily when the demands of the situation exceed their competencies.





            C.  Delay of gratification

            It involves foregoing small immediate rewards for larger rewards that will only become available later.

            It increases with age and is associated with higher intelligence, greater social responsibility and higher achievement strivings.



                        Self-distraction theory












D. Change



a. Rational-emotive therapy (RET; Albert Ellis)


            Adler (Individual Psychology) -- "everything depends on opinion"


            Thinking not only entails brain activity but also entails perception, emotion, and movement.  Therefore it would be more accurate to say a person "perceives-moves-feels-thinks about" a problem than to simply say s/he "thinks" about it. 

            One's thinking becomes one' emotion and emoting becomes one's thought.


A-B-C theory of personality

            When a highly charged emotional consequences (C) (such as an anxiety attack)        follows a significant activation event (A) (such as being chased by a large dog), A may seem to but actually does not cause C.  Instead emotional consequences          are largely created by the individual's belief system (B) (Oh, dear, all dogs are      dangerous and that is horrible).


            RET is based on the idea that negative emotions and maladaptive behaviors            result directly from maladaptive thoughts and only indirectly from precipitating            external events.


            RET uses cognitive restructuring to change faulty or irrational thoughts (e.g.,   mustabatory belief systems) that result in negative emotions, specially, anxiety,      depression, anger, and guilt.


            In RET, the therapist helps the client identify the specific maladaptive self-      statements s/he is making about some external precipitating event.  Then the         therapist points out the irrational or illogical beliefs on which the self-statements           are based.