In the course of even the most ordinary lives, people face an infinite number of decisions, problems, and challenges. Despite the statistics on the prevalence of emotional and behavioral dysfunction, most people most of the time are able to effectively make decisions, solve problems, and overcome challenges. Understanding how people adapt and adjust to life’s infinite challenges is, perhaps, the most important problem for scientific psychology. Not surprisingly, most of the important models of human learning, cognition, emotion, personality, and social interaction have tried to account for the individual’s capacity for adaptively responding to environmental changes, often referred to as competence (e.g., Sternberg & Kolligan, 1990; White, 1959). The study of beliefs about personal competence and the role of such beliefs in human adaptation and adjustment have a long history in clinical, personality, and social psychology. The theories of effectance motivation (White, 1959), achievement motivation (McClelland, Atkinson, Clark, & Lowell, 1953), social learning (Rotter, 1966), and helplessness (Abramson, Seligman, & Teasdale, 1978) are just a few of the many theories that have sought to explore and explain the relationship between perceptions of personal competence and adaptation, adjustment, and psychological well-being.


Outcome Expectancy Cognitive Therapy Social Cognitive Theory Causal Attribution Outcome Expectation 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • James E. Maddux
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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