Decision Counseling: Theory, Research, and Perspectives for a New Professional Role

  • Irving Janis
  • Leon Mann


“Here I am,” says the proverbial middle-aged man, “stuck with a miserable career chosen for me by an uninformed 19-year-old boy.” Why do so many young people make poor choices they live to regret? Why do so many middle-aged men and women fail to correct their erroneous decisions of the past and continue to make poor choices? Similar questions can be raised about the ill-conceived decisions made by business executives, public service administrators, and national policy makers. “How could I have been so stupid?” President John F. Kennedy asked after he and his top-level advisors suffered the humiliations resulting from their decision to authorize the CIA’s plan for the Bay of Pigs invasion. In recent years research investigators in social psychology, cognitive processes, and organizational behavior have been trying to answer such questions, to explain why people so often make decisions in public or private life that give rise to their personal Bays of Pigs. Some of the theoretical concepts and findings that have emerged point to ways of preventing gross miscalculations and improving the quality of decision making.


Balance Sheet Decisional Conflict Contingency Plan Personal Decision Coping Pattern 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abelson, R. P. Script processing in attitude formation and decision making. In J. S. Carroll and J. W. Payne (Eds.), Cognition and social behavior. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum Associates, 1976.Google Scholar
  2. Baker, G. W., and Chapman, D. W. (Eds.). Man and society in disaster. New York: Basic Books, 1962.Google Scholar
  3. Baudry, F., and Weiner, A. The pregnant patient in conflict about abortion: A challenge for the obstetrician. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1974, 119, 705–711.Google Scholar
  4. Bergin, A. E., and Garfield, S. C. (Eds.). Handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change. New York: Wiley, 1971.Google Scholar
  5. Breen, D. The birth of a first child: Towards an understanding of femininity. London, England: Tavistock, 1975.Google Scholar
  6. Carroll, J. S., and Payne, J. W. (Eds.) Cognition and social behavior. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum Associates, 1976.Google Scholar
  7. Clore, G. L., and McMillan, K. L. Role playing, attitude change, and attraction toward a disabled other. Unpublished paper, University of Illinois, 1970. (Summarized in J. S. Wiggins and others, The psychology of personality. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1971.)Google Scholar
  8. Coelho, G. V., Hamburg, D. A., and Adams, J. E. (Eds.). Coping and adaptation. New York: Basic Books, 1974.Google Scholar
  9. Colten, M. E., and Janis, I. L. Effects of self disclosure and the decisional balance-sheet procedure in a weight-reduction clinic. In I. Janis (Ed.), Counseling on personal decisions. New Haven: Yale University, in press.Google Scholar
  10. Corsini, R. J. Counseling and psychotherapy. In E. Borgatta and W. Lambert (Eds.), Handbook of personality theory and research. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1968.Google Scholar
  11. Egbert, L., Battit, G., Welch, C., and Bartlett, M. Reduction of postoperative pain by encouragement and instruction of patients. New England Journal of Medicine. 1964, 270, 825–827.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Epstein, S., and Clarke, S. Heart rate and skin conductance during experimentally induced anxiety: Effects of anticipated intensity of noxious stimulation and experience. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1970, 84, 105–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Etzioni, A. The active society. New York: Free Press, 1968.Google Scholar
  14. Festinger, L. (Ed.). Conflict, decision and dissonance. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1964.Google Scholar
  15. George, A. Adaptation to stress in political decision making: The individual, small group, and organizational contexts. In G. V. Coelho, D. A. Hamburg, and J. E. Adams (Eds.), Coping and adaptation. New York: Basic Books, 1974.Google Scholar
  16. Gomersall, E. R., and Meyers, M. S. Breakthrough in on-the-job training. Harvard Business Review, 1966, 44, 62–72.Google Scholar
  17. Hackman, R., and Morris, C. G. Group tasks, group interaction process, and group performance effectiveness: A review and proposed integration. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. Vol. 8. New York: Academic Press, 1975.Google Scholar
  18. Hoyt, M. F., and Janis, I. L. Increasing adherence to a stressful decision via a motivational balance-sheet procedure: A field experiment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1975, 31, 833–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Janis, I. L. Psychological stress: Psychoanalytic and behavioral studies of surgical patients. New York: Wiley, 1958. (Reprinted by Academic Press, 1974.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Janis, I. L. Motivational factors in the resolution of decisional conflicts. In M. R. Jones (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation. Vol. 7. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1959.Google Scholar
  21. Janis, I. L. Stress and frustration. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich, 1971.Google Scholar
  22. Janis, I. L. Victims of groupthink. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972.Google Scholar
  23. Janis, I. L. Effectiveness of social support for stressful decision. In M. Deutsch and H. A. Hornstein (Eds.), Applying social psychology. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum Associates, 1975.Google Scholar
  24. Janis, I. L. (Ed.). Counseling on personal decisions: Theory and field research on short-term helping relationships. New Haven: Yale University Press, in press.Google Scholar
  25. Janis, I. L., and Mann, L. Effectiveness of emotional role-playing in modifying smoking habits and attitudes. Journal of Experimental Research in Personality, 1965, 1, 84–90.Google Scholar
  26. Janis, I. L., and Mann, L. A conflict-theory approach to attitude change and decision making. In A. Greenwald, T. Brock, and T. Ostrom (Eds.), Psychological foundations of attitudes. New York: Academic Press, 1968.Google Scholar
  27. Janis, I. L., and Mann, L. Coping with decisional conflict. American Scientist, 1976, 64, 657–667.Google Scholar
  28. Janis, I., and Mann, L. Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflict, choice, and commitment. New York: Free Press, 1977.Google Scholar
  29. Johnson, J. E. The influence of purposeful nurse-patient interaction on the patient’s postoperative course. A. N. A. Monograph Series #2. Exploring Medical-Surgical Nursing Practice. New York: American Nurses’ Association, 1966.Google Scholar
  30. Johnson, J. E., and Leventhal, H. Effects of accurate expectations and behavioral instructions on reaction during a noxious medical examination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1974, 29, 710–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jones, E. E., and Nisbett, R. E. The actor and the observer: Divergent perceptions of the causes of behavior. In E. E. Jones et al., Attribution: Perceiving the causes of behavior. Morristown, New Jersey: General Learning Press, 1971.Google Scholar
  32. Katz, D., Sarnoff, I., and McClintock, C. G. Ego-defense and attitude change. Human Relations, 1956, 9, 27–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Langer, E. J., Janis, I. L., and Wolfer, J. A. Reduction of psychological stress in surgical patients. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 1975, 11, 155–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lazarus, R. S. Psychological stress and the coping process. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966.Google Scholar
  35. Lazarus, R. S., and Alfert, E. The short circuiting of threat by experimentally altering cognitive appraisal. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1964, 69, 195–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Levy, J. M., and McGee, R. K. Childbirth as crisis: A test of Janis’s theory of communication and stress resolution. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1975, 31, 171–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Luborsky, L., Todd, T. C., and Katcher, A. H. A self-administered social assets scale for predicting physical and psychological illness and health. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 1973, 17, 109–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Macedonia, R. M. Expectations-press and survival. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, New York University, 1969.Google Scholar
  39. Mann, L. Use of a “balance-sheet” procedure to improve the quality of personal decision making: A field experiment with college applicants. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 1972, 2, 291–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mann, L., and Janis, I. L. A follow-up study on the long-term effects of emotional role playing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1968, 8, 339–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. May, R. Love and will. New York: W. W. Norton, 1969.Google Scholar
  42. McClean, P. D. Depression as a specific response to stress. In I. G. Sarason and C.D. Spielberger (Eds.), Stress and anxiety. Vol. 3. Wiley, 1976.Google Scholar
  43. McGuire, W. J. The nature of attitudes and attitude change. In G. Lindzey and E. Aronson (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology. Vol. 3. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1969.Google Scholar
  44. Meichenbaum, D. Cognitive-behavior modification. New York: Plenum, 1977.Google Scholar
  45. Meichenbaum, D., and Turk, D. The cognitive-behavioral management of anxiety, anger, and pain. In P. O. Davidson (Ed.), The behavioral management of anxiety, depression, and pain. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1976.Google Scholar
  46. Miller, G. A. The magical number seven, plus or minus two. Psychological Review, 1956, 63, 81–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Moran, P. A. An experimental study of pediatric admission. Unpublished master’s thesis, Yale University School of Nursing, 1963.Google Scholar
  48. Phillips, L. Human adaptation and its failures. New York: Academic Press, 1968.Google Scholar
  49. Quinlan, D., and Janis, I. Appendix A: A questionnaire to assess state versus trait of self esteem. In I. Janis (Ed.), Counseling on personal decisions. New Haven: Yale University Press, in press.Google Scholar
  50. Reed, H. D., and Janis, I. L. Effects of a new type of psychological treatment on smokers’ resistance to warnings about health hazards. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1974, 42, 748.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rokeach, M. Long-range experimental modification of values, attitudes and behavior. American Psychologist, 1971, 26, 453–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sarason, I. G., and Spielberger, C. D. (Eds.). Stress and anxiety. Vol. 2. New York: Wiley, 1975.Google Scholar
  53. Schein, E. G. Process consultation. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1969.Google Scholar
  54. Schmidt, R. L. An exploratory study of nursing and patient readiness for surgery. Unpublished master’s thesis, Yale University School of Nursing, 1966.Google Scholar
  55. Shepard, R. N. On subjectively optimum selections among multi-attribute alternatives. In M. W. Shelly and G. L. Bryan (Eds.), Human judgments and optimality. New York: Wiley, 1964.Google Scholar
  56. Staub, E., and Kellett, D. Increasing pain tolerance by information about aversive stimuli. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1972, 21, 198–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Toomey, M. Conflict theory approach to decision making applied to alcoholics. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1972, 24, 199–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tversky, A., and Kahnemann, D. Judgment under uncertainty. Science, 1974, 185, 1124–1130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Vernon, D. T. A., and Bigelow, D. A. Effect of information about a potentially stressful situation on responses to stress impact. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1974, 29, 50–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wanous, J. P. Effects of a realistic job preview on job acceptance, job attitudes, and job survival. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1973, 58, 327–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Weitz, J. Job expectancy and survival. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1956, 40, 245–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wolfer, J. A., and Visintainer, M. A. Pediatric surgical patients’ and parents’ stress responses and adjustment as a function of psychologic preparation and stress-point nursing care. Nursing Research, 1975, 24, 244–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Youngberg, C. F. An experimental study of job satisfaction and turnover in relation to job expectations and self-expectations. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, New York University, 1963.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irving Janis
    • 1
  • Leon Mann
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyFlinders UniversityBedford ParkSouth Australia

Personalised recommendations