Expectations and Payoffs Key to Changing Behavior in 2013

As we ponder setting goals and making resolutions for change in 2013, I thought it would be helpful to see what research and theory might provide support for finally making the changes you want to make in 2013. I think Dr.Julian Rotter,who developed a powerful theory of Social Learning in the 1950’s By the 1960 his ideas initiated an enormous amount of research on the power of control and choice. “In 1966, Rotter published his famous I-E scale in the journal “Psychological Monographs”, to assess internal and external locus of control. This scale has been widely used in the psychology of personality studies. Rotter  was astounded by how much attention this scale of Inner Directed and outer directed control generated… He himself believed that the scale was an adequate measure of just two concepts, achievement and motivation for change (which he took to be linked with internal locus of control) and outer-directedeness, or tendency to conform to others (which he took to be associated with external locus of control). There are  four main components to his social learning theory model for predicting behavior.”These are reviewed below: behavior potential, expectancy, reinforcement value, and the psychological situation.

Behavior Potential. Behavior potential is the likelihood of engaging in a particular behavior in a specific situation. In other words, what is the probability that the person will exhibit a particular behavior in a situation? In any given situation, there are multiple behaviors one can choose to engage in. For each possible behavior, there is a behavior potential. The individual will exhibit whichever behavior has the highest potential.

Expectancy. Expectancy is the probability that a given behavior will lead to a particular outcome, or reinforces change. How likely is it that the behavior will lead to the outcome? Having “high” or “strong” expectations means the individual is confident the behavior will result in the outcome. Having low expectations means the individual believes it is unlikely that his or her behavior will result in reinforcement. If the outcomes are equally desirable, we will engage in the behavior that has the greatest likelihood of paying off (i.e., has the highest expectancy). Expectations are formed based on past experience. The more often a behavior has led to reinforcement in the past, the stronger the person’s expectancy that the behavior will achieve that outcome now.

Reinforcement Value. Reinforcement is another name for the outcomes of our behavior. Reinforcement value refers to the desirability of these outcomes. Things we want to happen, that we are attracted to, have a high reinforcement value. Things we don’t want to happen, that we wish to avoid, have a low reinforcement value. If the likelihood of achieving reinforcement is the same, we will exhibit the behavior with the greatest reinforcement value (i.e., the one directed toward the outcome we prefer most).

Predictive Formula. Behavior Potential (BP) is a function of Expectancy (E) and Reinforcement Value (RV) can be combined into a predictive formula for behavior change:

Behavior Change = (Expectations + Reinforcement Value)

So back to my coach with Bill H. It would have come as a great shock to everyone except his few close friends, had they discovered, how deeply unhappy he was with work routine. He was really only happy in his music studio, were he can listen to his favorite songs and composers, and very few knew that his real dream was to own his own music shop and teach others to appreciate the beauty of classical music some day.

Joe C. was by nature very out going, and I suspect that he suffered from a mild form of grandiosity and depression. Working as automotive executive was a struggle for him that never eased. Not to disappoint his wife, parents and work, he resolved to stick with it until something changed. His inability to be more self-directed, goes to work –  living out a self-inflicted misery instead of a happy life.

There are actually many people pursuing careers and goals that they are ill-suited for, and they too will remain stressed and unhappy until they make a change. But many feel trapped by the need to keep up a certain lifestyle, family expectations, and accumulated financial responsibilities.

The only way out of this unhappy state is to make a change in line with your true nature, or what the Buddhists call one’s being or “suchness.” Your true temperament will never allow you to feel comfortable, happy, or content, when you are engaged in activities that are not a good fit with who you really are.  So I asked Bill C. how committed he was to make a life change that better fits his perception of himself and his natural strengths? Stay tuned he says he is pondering what that change would look like and how committed he is to do it 2013. Will you commit and make the choices need to find more joy and equilibrium in your life?

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