Choosing a suitable career and/or tertiary education program is often a daunting task. During the career choice process, adolescentsmay need to compromise on a career goal because of environmental (e.g., distance, availability of study program…) or personal (e.g., intellectual, motivational…) constraints. This idea of compromising between aspirations and reality is well-embedded in theories of occupational choice such as the Theory of Circumscription and Compromise (Gottfredson, 1981) and Career Construction Theory (Savickas, 2006). It is also a central premise of goal-setting models (e.g., Bandura’s social cognitive theory (1991) and Carver & Scheier’s control model (1990)), which state that goal-setting is guided by a feedback loop in which there is a continual evaluation of the attainability of goals. Either the individual tries to change the situation to conform more closely with the goal (goal engagement) or the individual adjusts the goal to meet the constraints (goal disengagement).
This goal management is addressed in two major theories of developmental regulation, the dual-process framework (Brandtstädter & Rothermund, 2002) and the Motivational theory of life-span development (MTD, Jutta Heckhausen, Wrosch, & Schulz, 2010). Both theories provide a framework to understand the dynamic processes by which goals are adapted.
Two important factors are said to influence the ease of disengagement (Brandtstädter and Rothermund, 2002).First, the subjective attainability of a goal and, second, its personal importance and centrality. These factors are in line with the expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation (see e.g., Eccles & Wigfield, 2002) in which achievement choices are a function of the expectancy of success and the value of the goal. During the career choice process, especially the expectancy of success is problematic. Students on the verge of making career and/or educational choices lack previous experiences within the job or higher education context, which hinders the evaluation of attainability. As such, realistic goal-setting becomes difficult. Therefore, students are in need of feedback on the attainability of their choices. Yet, when receiving this type of information, do students actually follow-up on it? Some students seem to persist in engaging with a career goal in spite of feedback that the goal is unattainable.
Different goal-setting models predict opposing reactions to feedback. According to social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1991) negative feedback decreases people’s confidence and thus their success expectations which leads them to disengage from the goal. From a control theoretical perspective (Carver & Scheier, 1990) on the other hand, negative feedback encourages further goal pursuit by signaling that more effort is needed.
Thus, reactions to feedback do not seem to be universal. Therefore, individual and situational differences are important (Eva et al., 2012). Perhaps expectancy and value variables influence the reaction to attainability feedback. This study seeks to shed light on the influence of expectancy and value on the reaction to attainability feedback for career goal management. Who will disengage from a career goal after receiving (negative) attainability feedback and who will continue to strive for it?
The processes and factors that influence goal disengagement are still unclear (Heckhausen et al., 2010). Especially studies in ecologically valid settings are lacking (Tomasik & Silbereisen, 2012). Moreover, there is limited research into disengagement from career goals during the study choice process (Creed & Blume, 2013). Also, we know little about the role that feedback plays in career development (Creed, Wamelink, & Hu, 2015), and more specifically the factors that determine the acceptance of such feedback.
This study aims to fill this void by examining the effect of inter-individual differences in the acceptance of (negative) attainability feedback on goal disengagement during the study choice process. As such, it is a study of consequential validity.
Bandura, A. (1991). Social cognitive theory of self-regulation. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 248-287. Brandtstädter, J., & Rothermund, K. (2002). The life-course dynamics of goal pursuit and goal adjustment: A two-process framework. Developmental Review, 22(1), 117-150. Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1990). Origins and functions of positive and negative affect: A control-process view. Psychological review, 97(1), 19. Creed, P. A., & Blume, K. (2013). Compromise, Well-Being, and Action Behaviors in Young Adults in Career Transition. Journal of Career Assessment, 21(1), 3-19. Creed, P. A., Wamelink, T., & Hu, S. (2015). Antecedents and consequences to perceived career goal-progress discrepancies. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 87, 43-53. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2014.12.001 Eccles, J., & Wigfield, A. (2002). Motivational beliefs, values, and goals. Annual review of psychology, 53(1), 109-132. Eva, K. W., Armson, H., Holmboe, E., Lockyer, J., Loney, E., Mann, K., & Sargeant, J. (2012). Factors influencing responsiveness to feedback: on the interplay between fear, confidence, and reasoning processes. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 17(1), 15-26. doi:10.1007/s10459-011-9290-7 Fonteyne, L., Duyck, W., & De Fruyt, F. (2016). Program-Specific Prediction of Academic Achievement on the basis of Cognitive and Non-cognitive Factors. Manuscript submitted for publication. Gottfredson, L. S. (1981). Circumscription and Compromise - A Developmental Theory of Occupational Aspirations. J Couns Psychol, 28(6), 545-579. doi:10.1037//0022-018.104.22.1685 Haratsis, J. M., Creed, P. A., & Hood, M. (2015). Measuring assimilative and accommodative resources in young adults: Development and initial validation of suitable scales. Personality and Individual Differences, 81, 61-66. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2014.12.011 Heckhausen, J., Schulz, R., & Wrosch, C. (1998). Developmental Regulation in Adulthood: Optimization in Primary and Secondary Control – A Multiscale questionnaire (OPS-Scales) Retrieved from Berlin, Germany: Heckhausen, J., Wrosch, C., & Schulz, R. (2010). A motivational theory of life-span development. Psychological review, 117(1), 32. Owen, S., & Froman, R. (1988). Development of a college academic self-efficacy scale. Paper presented at the National Council on Measurement in Education, New Orleans, LA. Savickas, M. L. (2006). Career construction theory. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 15 th Annual Careers Conference. Tomasik, M. J., & Silbereisen, R. K. (2012). Beneficial effects of disengagement from futile struggles with occupational planning: A contextualist-motivational approach. Developmental Psychology, 48(6), 1785. Vansteenkiste, M., Sierens, E., Soenens, B., Luyckx, K., & Lens, W. (2009). Motivational profiles from a self-determination perspective: the quality of motivation matters. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(3), 671-688. doi:10.1037/a0015083 Wrosch, C., Scheier, M. F., Miller, G. E., Schulz, R., & Carver, C. S. (2003). Adaptive self-regulation of unattainable goals: Goal disengagement, goal reengagement, and subjective well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(12), 1494-1508.
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