The to limitations of earlier theories. Whilst Behaviourists

The Social Cognitive approach to psychology emerged
due to limitations of earlier theories. Whilst Behaviourists (such as Skinner)
emphasised the role of learning in experimental work with animals and humans,
such as operant and classical conditioning, they traditionally focussed on the
role of behaviour resulting from stimulus control. In comparison, Mischel ()
believed behaviour may be the result of internal cognitive structures which can
influence an individual’s behaviour dependent on the context, a feature which
Skinner disputes (CITE THIS – 1). This essay
will depict how the social cognitive approach, discussing primarily the work of
Mischel (1973), can explain the topic of emotion. Throughout the essay, key
debates such as verifiability, parsimony and functional significance will be
outlined with reference to the broader concepts using Hjelle
and Ziegler (1981 cited in Furnham & Heaven 1999) framework.

Earlier
trait theorists argued behaviour was primarily determined by ‘stable’
characteristics over a given time period, labelled traits (Mischel, Shoda & Ayduk,
2008).
For example, we may assign adjectives to individuals to describe their patterns
of behaviour. Of importance, these traits were suggested to be stable across
different contexts, although theorists such as Allport (1937) argued for the
difference in cardinal, central traits and for the uniqueness in traits between
individuals (Funder, 1991). Although primarily the core assumption for trait
theorists were the generalizability of different traits resulting in behaviours
across many contexts. In comparison, Mischel (1973) outlined several types of ‘person
variables’ where an individual evaluates oneself in relation to other
individuals, emphasising person-situation interaction and the differences in
personality. For example, it could include how one encodes events,
self-actions, one’s goals and values as well as expectancies and beliefs about
the world. In particular, he highlights the differences in these aspects
between individuals, one individual may appraise an event differently compared
to another, based on their own intrinsic values and goals. For example, in
terms of emotion, people may differ in how they encode an event; a situation
which may elicit an emotional response from one individual may not for another.
GIVE AN EXAMPLE HERE However, Mischel further
argued one could possibly predict, when in the correct circumstances,
behaviours of an individual when in certain environments, but whilst also
investigating their prior beliefs and their expectancies in a given situation (Mischel,
1973). Therefore, Mischel and Shoda (1998) argued for a
person-situation interaction, whereby an individual may express certain
‘traits’ due to factors in the environment. For example, in relation to
emotion, an individual described as ‘aggressive’ may only express this trait in
one situation, such as when aggravated, than in another situation. So, the
expression of this emotion would be dependant on the context and how one
encodes the current situation, rather than generalizable across many contexts.

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In relation to the topic of emotion, Mischel argued
for a cognitive affective processing system model (CAPS). Specifically, this
theory explains individual differences in terms of differences in behaviour
between individuals across many situations such as in emotional processing (Mischel
& Shoda, 1995). The core feature of this approach is differences in
cognitive-affective processing units (CAUs) which in terms of emotion Mischel
(1973 cited in handbook of self-regulation https://rascl.berkeley.edu/uploads/mischel_ayduk_2004_handbook.pdf)
suggests are ‘mental representations of cognitions and affects.’ Similarly, to
connectionist models in psychology, these CAUs are interconnected with other
units, to produce a ‘map’ and these units are activated when required by a
situation or are deactivated when not required. Importantly taking account the
context of the situation, other mediating factors explained earlier such as
goals, motivation could also interact to affect an individual’s behaviour. Compared
to behaviourism, Mischel (1975) argued for the role of ‘internal processing’ in
terms of emotional reaction – whereby previous encounters with a situation
elicits a similar emotional response, due to similar CAUs being activated. Therefore,
individual differences in emotion arise due to how an individual selectively
appraises situations and the differences in CAUs being activated during certain
situations. Thus, Mischel (1975) argued that differences in encoding these emotional
situations between individuals and how these interact with internal cognitions
effect behaviour, rather than stimulus response learning. For example, GIVE EXAMPLES RELATING TO THE TOPIC OF EMOTION