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PSY426H1 Lecture Notes - Phenotype, Controllability, Fritz Heider

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Jason Plaks

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An attributional theory of achievement motivation and emotion
Weiner, part 1
Bernard Weiner advocates that emotions are output of a complex
cognitive process—especially socializing/human emotions such
as guilt and pride
- Step 1: mind evaluates the event broadly (i.e. was it good or bad)
- step 2: what was the cause? Causal analysis
Weiner suggested that cause can be summed up by three
dimensions: locus, stability, and controllability
Locus: internal or external factor?, stability: can this condition
change? Controllability: can I change the causes?
Attributions about the causes of events affect predispositions for
future behaviour
Ex. If failed test and think it’s due to lack of studying =
internal/unstable/controllable = likely to study hard next time
because has power over outcome and good chance of success
since the cause is changeable
If conditions/causes expected to remain the same, a success
would lead to greater likelihood of repeating behaviour, while
failure would deter repition.
Dweck believes that people assign stable vs. unstable
attributions based on their beliefs of the nature of constructs
such as ability, effort, and luck (ex. Is luck a personality trait or
external fluctuation?)
People constantly in pursuit of answer to “why?” for the causes
of outcomes
Knowledge facilitates mastery of environment
Structure of perceived causality
Why study? To determine difference between different
attributions and thus effect on behaviour
Logical analysis of causal structure
Several psychologists analyzed causal structure
Fritz Heider first proposed that an outcome is felt to depend
on two sets of conditions; “factors within the person, and
factors within the environment”, he is a pioneer of the
attributional approach in psychology
Then Rotter’s work on the internal-external locus dimension
dominated causal structure theory
Then Weiner argued that besides the locus dimension, causal
structure also includes a stability-instability dimension; some

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factors may vary with time while others are unchanging (ex.
Effort versus aptitude); ability=internal/stable,
effort=internal/unstable, task difficulty=external/stable,
However his 4 main classifications of cause do not make good
sense—some people may think luck is a stable trait of the
person, for example
Rosenbaum recognised the third dimension because some
internal/stable causes still differed somehow—some are under
volitional control
Fatigue is stable and uncontrollable, for example, while effort
is under the person’s will to exert
Rotter’s internal/external dimension not sufficient to explain,
so all three insights used in the proposed theory of the causal
Motivational Dynamics of Perceived Causality: Expectancy Change
Expectancy and value help understand action tendencies
Goal expectancy is a reoccurring theme in motivational theory;
link to attributional theory?
Heider: goal expectancy determined by perceived ability and
planned effort relative to difficulty of task
Tolman and Rotter propose that expectancy is determined by
the frequency of reinforcement for the action that leads to an
outcome or a person’s beliefs about reinforcement of the action
across situation, context, and individual
Atkinson : reinforcement as well as competitors and
communications from others about likelihood of success
Investigations of expectancy change
three psychological literatures are directly related to changes in goal expectancies
1. level of aspirations
2. effects of outcomes on chance tasks on probabilities of future success
3. resistance to extinction and beliefs about locus of control
Studies on goal expectancy are achievement-related
Level of aspiration
Subsequent aspiration level is partly dependant on prior
outcome: if success = aspiration level rises, if failure to
reach aspiration level = it decreases – known as typical
aspiration shifts
Since expectancy assumed to be reflected by aspiration
level—expectancy rises with success etc.
Sometimes atypical aspiration shifts occur: ie. Lower level
after success
Social learning theory integration
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