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Religious conversion is a reform of identity or self – a change in our belief system and lifestyle. Snow and Machalek (1984) said that conversion is an experience involves radical personal change…a turning from one viewpoint to another, or a return to principles from which one has strayed.
The use of the word could mean “simple change from the absence of a faith system to a faith commitment, from religious affiliation from one faith system to another, or from one orientation to another within a single faith system” (Rambo, 1993)
One thing is for sure about conversion, it rooted from a desire that force one person make a 360o turn to other religion or belief which they think brought enlightenments to them. They have encountered a transcendent power, an “otherness,” that reshapes their intention to become coterminous with the intentions and purposes of other (Swanson, 1978)
Changes in the Focus of the Study
Early studies in religious conversion focused on Christianity. More studies were about Lutherism, Calvenism and the likes. In the 1970s, interest in the new religious movements has grown. From Broomley (2001) points of view the new religious movements and cults gave way to intellectual and political polarization in the academe.
The movements at issue have been described as unfairly maligned new religious groups, on the one hand, and as destructive cults, on the other hand. The counter-movements opposing these groups have been depicted as unjustly denigrated self-help movements comprised of concerned families and citizens and also as the latest incarnation of anti-religious bigotry.
In the 1990, the interest in spirituality and other major traditional religion develops. The concentration now on religion is not only with Christianism now more people were interested in studying Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religions. The discussion about religious and spiritual also develop. They tend to differentiate the two: religious – being the person who follows closely tradition and practices of the religion, while spiritual is being or having a close personal relationship with God.
Typologies of Conversion
According to Lofland and Skonovd (1981) there are six motifs possible motif for religious conversion. These are intellectual, mystical, social, revivalist, experimental, and coercive.
- Intellectual conversion: This is an increasing type of motif of conversion. A person may seek knowledge about religion and spiritual matters through books, media, and other means that do not involve any significant process of social contact with persons who may have access to such knowledge (quoted in Rambo, 1993). One of the perfect example for this type of conversion was he leader of “Iglesia ni Cristo” from the Philippines. He claimed that he was enlightened after reading and examining the bible.
- Mystical conversion: In this type of conversion, a person may be by any chance get involve with a sudden and traumatic burst of insight consequent to experiencing vision voices and such other phenomena. To many, this kind of conversion is the proto-typical conversion, which involves a sudden and traumatic burst of insight consequent to experiencing “visions,” “voices,” and other such phenomena (quoted Rambo 1993). An example of this type of conversion can be rooted way back from the New Testament; it was when Paul heard God’s voice while he was on his way to Damascus to persecute all who believe in Jesus. After that encounter he became a preacher of the word of God and become a believer of Christ.
- Experimental conversion: This is also a growing motif of conversion; here an individual actively explores available religious options prior to actual conversion. As Rambo points out, many groups encourage this process by adopting a quasi-scientific stand, where potential converts are encouraged to take nothing on faith, but on conviction (Rambo, 1993). What is important to remember is that within this kind of paradigm numerous support systems, inclusive of literature, ritual and institutional networks would be in place to “convince” the potential convert. Experimental conversion is typical of social contexts, where a variety of religious options are widely and easily available and accessible.
4.Affectional conversion: In affectional conversions interpersonal bonds play an important role in the process of conversion. In this conversion process, it is imperative that an individual directly experience being “loved, nurtured, and affirmed by a group and its leaders” (quoted in Rambo 1993). Most of the time this happens to people whose feeling that they were alone and neglected by the society. Then this group of people will come to his door and enter his life and preach the word God. Be there for him and make him feel special. In that way, this person will feel he now belongs to a group and his life has now a purpose. He will go with them and be one of them.
- Revivalism: In this kind of conversion, crowd conformity is used to induce certain kind of behaviour. In other words, “individuals are emotionally aroused and new beliefs and behaviours are promoted by pressures exerted” (quoted in Rambo 1993: 15). While this kind of conversion process was more common in the 19th century than in the 20th, many evangelical groups do use mass rallies with emotionally powerful music and preaching.
- Coercive conversion: Lofland and Skonovd believe that coercive conversion is relatively rare in the contemporary world. In terms of this conversion process, coerciveness can be determined on the intensity of pressures exerted upon a person to conform, participate and confess. In this process, deprivation of sleep and food may assure that a person does not have the will not to surrender to a group’s ideology and submissive life-style (quoted in Rambo, 1993). Coercive conversion as a specific category is more commonly seen in cults that are relatively removed from mainstream society.
In this study they also identify five of conversion types based on degree of pressure, temporal duration, affective arousal, affective content, and belief-participation ordering.
Another typology of conversion examined the nature of spiritual conversion of Christian college students and it found out the significant differences between the religious change groups and the group not experiencing religious change in terms of their pre-change experiences, post-change experiences, and amount of pre-post change. (Zinnbauer & Pargament, 1998)
Personal Factors in Relation to Conversion
Our subconscious has a role in bringing about religious conversion be it sudden or gradual. Like the John (Brgan, 1977), Sarah (Loewenthal, 2000), Yasmin (Kose & Loewenthal, 2000) underwent a hidden process started working in them in some point and made them to have that experiences.
Ina study entitled “Religious Conversion and Personal change” the authors concluded that religious conversion has a little effect on the elemental function as the Big Five traits or temperaments. But religious conversion has a significant effect on the mid-level functions like goals, feelings, attitudes and behaviour, and in the more self-defining personality functions such as identity and life meaning. (Paloutzian et.al, 1999)
Why does person undergo religious conversion?
- There are people who have a shift of religion simply to escape the inner turmoil; brought about by some social forces. It offers them new perspective in life and satisfying personal network.
- There are other who did this because it new to them. The converter explains to them that what they believed in was wrong and that they are considered as pagans. Example of this was the missionaries that goes to Sri Lanka and convert Buddhist believer there to Christians.
- There are people who convert to a new religion because they found enlightenment.
After the conversion there is an ecstatic feeling. The person feels he is renewed or reborn. There is a feeling of belongingness and purpose in life.
Attribution theory is a collection of diverse theoretical and empirical contributions that deals with how the social perceiver uses information to arrive in a causal explanation of events (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). There are three main Attribution Theory – the Heider’s Naïve scientist; Jones and Davis’ correspondent inference theory; and Kelley’s covariance model.
Heider’s The Psychology of Interpersonal Relation (1968)
Fritz Hieder noted that Individual behaviour is so compelling to us that we take it at face value and give insufficient weight to the circumstances surrounding it. (Atkinson, et. al., 2000). There are three steps in making attribution:
We underestimate the situational causes of behaviour, jumping easily to conclusions about the person’s disposition. If we observe someone behaving aggressively we too readily judge or assume that he has an aggressive personality, rather that saying that his situation might provoke him.
People try to predict and control things. Their judgment is made in rational ways. We have schemas of cause and effect for human behaviours that too much weight to the person and too little to the situation.
The Naïve Scientist (1958)
In so far as this applied to understanding why people do the things they do, this amounted to finding satisfactory causal accounts of behaviour; and furthermore, since searching for explanations is something that scientists do, this amounted to regarding people as if they were in some sense natural or primitive psychologists.
From this basis, the idea of man as a naive scientist began to emerge, this notion deriving from the accumulating evidence that people made inferences about the causes of human behaviour on the basis of their observations of social acts, in the way that the scientist or physicist makes inferences on the basis of observations of physical events. The task then became one of finding out how such causal inferences were made, and illuminating the kinds of evidence involved in the process. (http://www.csulb.edu/~acargile/430/notes/oct12.html)
These causal inferences which sought to describe and predict the events that science do were held to have important implications for behaviour whether they were true or not. With respect to addiction, for example, this would imply that belief in the inability of addicts to control their own drug use, would have important behavioural implications whether such a belief were true or not. (http://www.csulb.edu/~acargile/430/notes/oct12.html)
Hieder’s critics said that his theory is insightful and not empirical. People do not make everyday judgment in rational systematic way.
Correspondent Inference Theory
Jones and Davis (1965) states that we use information about another person’s behaviour and its effect to draw a correspondent inference in which the behaviour is distributed to a disposition or personality characteristic.
We made correspondent inferences in several ways.
- Behaviour is viewed to be intentional.
- Socially undesirability of the behaviour.
- The analysis of the non-common effects – Effects produced by a particular cause that could not be produced by any apparent cause. Assuming there is an available alternative behaviour. (Jones and Davis, 1965; Jones & McGillis, 1976) When there are fewer distinctive consequences of the act.
The critics of the Correspondent Inference Theory find the following error or rather limitations on this theory.
- For Nisbett & Ross (1980), assuming that observers decide on the commonality of the effect by comparing the actor’s actual behavior with several non-chosen action. In fact observers rarely consider non-chosen actions.(www.psypress.co.uk/common/supplementary/184169360X p.22)
- Based from the theory intentions comes first, then we attribute it to disposition. But sometimes we draw inferences even if we find someone’s action to be unintentional.
- Hogg & Vaughan careless behavior is unintentional but we often conclude that the person is a careless person (2002). .(www.psypress.co.uk/common/supplementary/184169360X p.22)
There is another attribution theory that focuses on the co-variation of the multiple events. The result of this is Kelley’s co-variation or the ANOVA Model of Attribution (Kelley, 1967, 1973). He argued that people make inference based on the information available to them. When we have the significant or important information about the target (others), we can distinguish the co-variation and the possible causes.
The model state that people assess information varies across three dimensions.
- CONSISTENCY – Does the person usually behave this way in this situation?
- DISTINCTIVENESS – Does the person behave differently in different situations?
- CONSENSUS – Does others behave similarly in this situation?
It is said that, we (the self) is responsible when distinctiveness is low, consistency is high, and consensus is low. Others is responsible when distinctiveness, consistency, and consensus is high. The situation is responsible when distinctiveness is high, consistency is low, and consensus is low. For example, our to-be explained event is: The senior vice president flirts with his secretary? Why? Is it something does to with the vice-president, the secretary or the situation?
- Something about the vice-president is causing the flirting.
- Something about the secretary is causing the flirting.
- The flirting is caused by the circumstances unique to the situation.
What are Attribution Biases?
When we make attribution or inferences about ourselves or other people there are possibilities that we are committing biases. Biases which maybe result from our cognitive limitations or a result from the fast judgment that we make sometimes due to motivational factors (we are motivated to see ourselves in a positive light relative to others)
There are several types of attribution biases: Hedonic relevance, fundamental attribution error (FAE), Actor-observer differences, false consensus and false uniqueness effect, defensive attribution and inter-group attributions
This refers to the inferences made we made because other persons action or behavior affects us.
An example of this is attributing a friend of being insensitive and inconsiderate because he never gave in to what you want.
Fundamental Attribution Error
Ross (1977) said that people don’t perceive that an actor’s behavior is usually result of mix of individual personal traits and situational factors. In this case, people tend to do the following:
- Underestimate impact of situational factors (Ross, 1977)
- Overestimate impact of dispositional factors in controlling behavior of others (Ross, 1977)
An example is attributing a friend’s recent failed examination to the fact that the friend has low IQ rather than to the fact that she might have experience a mental block on the time of the exam. The former would be a dispositional attribution; the latter a situational attribution
The Actor-Observer Effect
We tend to attribute our own behaviours to the situation factors but attribute other’s behavior to the stable personal disposition. We judge others differently to the way we judge ourselves. (Jones & Nisbett, 1972)
For example, I have a car accident. If in that car accident I am the one responsible for the accident I will say, “ it was just an accident, no one want it to happen. But if it was the other person’s fault, we will say he was a reckless driver.
These are inferences that we made in defence to our self. This is especially true when the outcomes are negative. When it is about other people, we blame the person for their fate.
This type of attribution starts when we are young. Whenever we stumble and fall, our mother or nanny will say “ you bad stair or bad rock!” and pacify us assuring us that what happened was not our fault and it was the others to blame (in this case the rock or the stairs).
This can also be true for rape victims wherein instead that we blame the rapist for their wrongdoing. There are people who put the blame on the rape victim saying “if she did not wear that kind of clothes or act like that, maybe that does not happen to her”.
The False Unique and False Consensus Effect
There is also the idea of false uniqueness, which describes the misjudgement of one’s similarity to others. For example, people are given a choice between two uncomfortable situations. Then they are asked how much discomfort they expected to experience in the situation they chose. Also, they are asked which experience they believed most people would choose, and how much discomfort most people would experience. Subjects responded that they believed others would choose the same alternative they did, but that other people would not experience as much discomfort as they would. Thus, people’s responses suggest others would have the same opinion as they did (make the same choice), but others would not feel as much as they would (experience as much discomfort). (Psychological Campus, 2004)
On the other hand, in the false consensus effect people has the tendency to think that majority of the people always agree to what they think or believed in.
Interestingly, people believe that many people do not share the ability that they are best at. However, the same people also believe that the opinion that is the most important to them is commonly held. Thus, people seem to be saying that they are unique and common simultaneously -unique in ability, and common in belief. (Psychological Campus, 2004).
The Inter-Group Attribution
These are biases that people make towards a certain group or minority. Sometimes this is called the “ultimate attribution bias” (Pettigrew, 1979). Ethnocentrism, Stereotyping and Intergroup conflict are some of the type of this biases.
Example of this is the attribution made by Japanese during their annexation of Korea. In one of their newspaper, a Japanese writer wrote: “Koreans are basically suspicious and accustomed to bribery in politics. To grant them the right of political participation would be to spread infection in the Diet.” (Jiji Shimpō, 1910)
Because of intergroup attributional biases about the Asian people by the Westerners (called Orientals), some people in Asian still have some grudge against the westerners even if that was way back 19th century, still there are Asian particularly from the Arab country hold grudge against the Westerners.
Because of intergroup attribution biases 9/11 happened, stereotyping of people based from the colour of their skins are happening,
Attribution process is prone to biases and error because as a person we tend to make quick judgment about other people and other group without considering other factor like the situation etc.
Perception of Control
Locus of Control is perceived to be one individual’s perception of the things that happens in life. A locus of control is a belief about whether the outcomes of our actions are contingent on what we do (internal control orientation) or on events outside our personal control (External control orientation). (Neill, 2005)
Rotter (1954) locus of control refers to people’s very general, cross-situational beliefs about what determines whether or not they get reinforced in life. People can be classified along a continuum from very internal to very external. In doing his research Rotter found out that even if people are faced with same learning situation there is still variation in its outcomes. There are people whose responses are predictable and some are not predictable. He also observed that there are people who can see the direct link between a persons behavior and the reward and punishments.
Mearns (2005) said Rotter have written a comprehensively on problems with people’s interpretations of the locus of control. He said that:1. It is not a typology or a proposition.2. It is a generalized expectancy that might predict people’s behaviour across situations. But there are special cases where you find a generally internal person will behave like an external
Someone with an internal locus of control believes that he or she has the power to change things by the decisions he or she makes and the actions he or she engages in. Someone with an external locus of control believes that luck, fate, or others are responsible for the outcome of events. (Lathrop, 2006)
People with internal locus of control enjoy selecting a task. They can construct more effective action plan because they believe that they have control over things and in every action that they do. With this in mind, they have a freedom to manipulate things in their hands. Twist situations to work for their advantage. In case they do not succeed, internal people strive harder to get what they want, believing that the key to they success lies in their own hands. They tend to focus on task, on what they can do not on the judging ability. Abilities can be develop, a person just have to work hard in order to gain that ability.
Furthermore, based on research findings we can summarize the characteristic the following characteristic to manifest with people who are typically internal
- Internals are more likely to work for achievements, to tolerate delays in rewards and to plan for long-term goals. (Gershaw, 1989)
- As indicated above – after experiencing success in a task, internals are likely to raise their behavioural goals. In contrast, externals are more likely to lower their goals. (Gershaw, 1989)
- After failing a task, internals re-evaluate future performances and lower their expectations of success. After failure, externals raise their expectations. (Gershaw, 1989)
- Internals are better able to resist coercion. (Gershaw, 1989)
- Internals are more likely to learn about their surroundings and learn from their past experiences. (Gershaw, 1989)
- Internals experience more anxiety and guilt with their failures and use more repression to forget about their disappointments. (Gershaw, 1989)
- Internals find solving their own bouts of depression easier. Likewise, they are less prone to learned helplessness and serious depression. (Gershaw, 1989)
- Internals are better at tolerating ambiguous situations. (Gershaw, 1989)
- Internals are less willing to take risks. (Gershaw, 1989)
- Internals are more willing to work on self-improvement and better themselves through remedial work. (Gershaw, 1989)
- Internals derive greater benefits from social supports. (Gershaw, 1989)
- Internals make better mental health recovery in the long-term adjustment to physical disability. (Gershaw, 1989)
- Internals are more likely to prefer games based on skill, while externals prefer games based on chance or luck.(Gershaw, 1989)
The development of locus of control is associated with family style and resources, cultural stability and experiences with effort leading to reward. Many internals have grown up with families that modelled typical internal beliefs. These families emphasized effort, education, responsibility and thinking. Parents typically gave their children rewards they had promised them. (Gershaw, 1989)
On the other hand, people with external locus of control easily gives up believing that if they fail maybe because their fate doesn’t permits it to happen to them. They prefer easy task and are afraid of failures. They set low and unorganised goals. This is because they always consider extraneous variables might come along the way and affect on what they were doing. Because of this way of thinking, external people have little capacity to implement plan thinking that if they fail along the process, what will they do to remedy it.
If we talk about our future we look forward and we have high hopes and high expectations that it in stores beautiful and good things for us. When opportunities knock on our doors, we based our decisions from the past outcomes and the present situation at hand. Our judgments then is based on the causal influences
Concepts and Measurements of Perception of Control Since Rotter’s (1966) Monograph
Rotter conceptualised the Social Learning Theory in 1954. The theory stated that human behavior could be explained using three-way reciprocal theories that continually interact in a process of reciprocal determinism or reciprocal causality (Rotter, 1954). The dynamics relationship of these factors (personal factors, behaviours and environmental influences) can shape the person and his environment. (See illustration below)
The theory an also be represented by the equation:
This equation means that a person’s behavior in a situation is not only determined by the value of the reinforcement but also by the expectations you have regarding the possible outcomes of that reinforcements.
History of Locus of Control
Rotter conceptualised the Locus of Control of Reinforcement in 1966 that measures the internal and external locus of control. Other scientist has used this concept and researcher followed his footsteps and used his monograph as a guide. Some of the health related researchers like Wallston, Norman & Bennet, Cousin-Gellie et.al, do researches about locus of control. Some of these are researches that use LOC to better understand one’s behavior or responses.
Multidimensional Health Locus of Control (MHLC) Scale
– is a scale developed by Wallston and company in 1978. This consists of two forms, forms A and B. Each form contains 18 items and contains three six-item Likert scales (Wallston and Wallston, 1981).
- Internal Health Locus of Control (IHLC)is use to assess the degree of belief by one person about the influence of his behavior to his health status. Getting a high score in this scale means that the person has a sense of responsibility for their own health. (Wallston and Wallston, 1982)
- PHLC – To measure the degree of influence other people have in once health
- CHLC – assesses perceived non-control of health, or the belief that fate, luck, or chance determines one’s health status. (Wallston, 1989)
But critics of Multidimensional Health Locus of Control (MHLC) Scale said that the scale is not a perfect predictor or behavior. It is not a powerful predictor alone and that there are other specific measures that are more promising. The significance level of this construct is only 10% and it is for the behavior factor alone. They believed that in order for a construct like this to be successful health value should be incorporated.
Another construct was developed to assessed the locus of control intended for health related researches, it is called the Sphere-Specific measure of perceived control. This was developed by Delroy Paulhus (1982).
Sphere-specific measures of perceived control (1982)
The test was intended to measure the locus of control of the respondents. The test consist of 30 items and is broken into three subscale: personal efficacy, interpersonal control and socio-political control.
- personal efficacy
- interpersonal control
- socio-political control
Using the concept of locus of control, many health related researches was made.
From being a single scale (Rotter’s concept) to multidimensional scale (Wallston & Paulhaus. The study on locus of control and health became more extensive. Improvement in measurement have been made. They have incorporated health values in their studies and study more specific field like locus of control in relation to cardiovascular health behaviors, Myocardial Infractions, exercise, alcohol and alcoholism, AIDS, Smoking, Weight loss and Cancer.
One of the most latest study made regarding Locus of Control was made by Kelley et. al (1990) when they developed Aids specific measure.
Another study was Coussin-Gelli et.al in 2005 wherein they made Breast Cancer specific measures. There are 157 participant for this research and all of them were women diagnosed of breast cancer. The test consists of Body Image Questionnaire, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Perceived Stress Scale, the Social Support Questionnaire, and the Ways of Coping Checklist.
For Cancer Locus of Control measure they specifically concentrated on three original factors: the internal causal attribution, control over course of illness, and religious control. They found that internal causal attribution was related to high scores for state anxiety and none of the Cancer Locus of Control scale predicted duration of survival measured two years later.
AIDS Health Locus of Control
This study examined the relationship between self-reported frequencyof condom use (by self or partner during the past 6 months andlifetime), locus of control, self-efficacy, and future timeorientation among African American college students who weresingle and sexually active during the past year. Data were collectedfrom 106 undergraduate students at a southeastern university.
The sample included both men (32.1%) and women (67.9%). Themean age of the sample was 21.1 years. Locus of control didnot predict condom use. Greater probability of condom use wasrelated to higher self-efficacy and future time orientationscores. Furthermore, women with stronger future orientationsexhibited more frequent current and past use of condoms in theirsexual activities than males. The implications of these findingsfor AIDS prevention education programs are discussed.
The following were some of the studies made about locus of control and health related behaviors:
- Self-efficacy and recovery from heart attack: implications for a social cognitive analysis of exercise and emotion by Ewart, C. K in 1995
- Predicting success in weight reduction as a function of locus of control: A unidimensional and multidimensional approach by Balch and Ross in 1975.
- Smoking modication procedures for internal and external locus of control clients by Best and Stefy in 1975
- Examining personal control beliefs as a mediating variable in the health-damaging behavior of substance use: an alternative approach by Carlisle-Frank in 1991.
- Perceived control, illness status, stress, and adjustment to cardiac illness. By Flowes in 1994.
- Effect of internal and external control upon changes in smoking behavior by James, Woodruff and Werner in 1965
- Locus of control and drinking behavior in a sample of men in army basic training by Naditch in 1975
Cancer and Locus of Control
In a study about the comparison between African-American and White Women in their belief about breast cancer and their health locus of control (Barrosa, et.al., 2000). The result of this research study add to the information that there is a great need to develop an effective program that will help increase breast cancer awareness screening among African-American.
Weight Loss and Locus of Control
There are findings that says that in traditional weight loss program it is was found out to be more effective to internal people than to those who are external. For external it is best to have a tailored or personalized weight loss training program. (Saltzer, 1982). Internal people were more likely to lose weight than people with external weight locus of control beliefs. (Saltzer, 1981)
Holt, C., et.al., (2000) made a study about the the effect of locus of control to health education materials. Finding shows that application of tailored education materials in health education and communication must be studied more in order to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the approach. Extensive study regarding under which condition is the approach most effective is necessary. (Holt, et.al, 2000)
AIDS & Locus of Control
Another study about locus of control was its significance to AID knowledge in minorities. It was found out that there is a great need to address personal belief and perception concerning the risk of AID and to consider using HLOC when educating patients and public about AIDS (Aruffo, J.F. et.al., 1993)
The Impact of Locus of Control to Physical Health
It is very important to study the relationship of locus of control and our physical well-being, because the condition of our physical bodies affects our behavior. When we are sick there is a tendency for us to have negative beliefs. Lau believe thatEpisodes of health ailments do not have to lead to adoption of negative beliefs in the realm of self-care; rather, they can be used to reinforce positive beliefs. In congruence with classic reinforcement theory, doctors and parents could stress how the negative episode would not have occurred had certain self-care behaviors been performed. Or, ways in which the illness would have been more serious or occurred earlier if negative behaviors had been performed could be recognized (in Mackey, 2002)
By studying the uses of locus of control and perceived behavior we can see that:
- If there is high level of perceived risk regarding specific disease and its measures then there is an increase rate of survival.
- Lau (1982) believed that it is imperative to realize that the attributions people make after getting sick are critical in determining what effects that illness episode will have on related health beliefs and health behaviors (in Mackey, 2002)
- Health Locus of control beliefs are primarily formed in childhood and remain relatively stable throughout the life span. It is important that we empower ourselves when we recognize the benefits that internal HLC beliefs can have on the health behaviors we practice and encourage in others.( Mackey, 2002)
An article from American Psychological Association entitled “ Aging under control made the conclusion that the sense of control is relatively high among Americans, yet a substantial number report low control, especially in later life and for some domains of life. Individual differences in control beliefs are related to well-being, memory, and health, especially for older adults. Adults with a lower sense of control may be more vulnerable to memory and health problems in later life, in part, because they are less likely to use compensatory strategies or adopt preventative behaviors. There is the potential to reduce age differences in cognition and physical functioning by instilling more adaptive beliefs. We need further research to establish clear links between belief changes and the substantial behavioral changes required to help bring aging under control, as Cicero recommended long ago.(Lachman, 2005)
Illusion of Well- Being and Unrealistic Self
Over the years, researchers found out that people tend to suggest positive evaluation of themselves. This works because the cognitive mind has filters that distort information in a positive direction and represent negative information as non-threatening as possible. (Taylor & Brown, 1988).
Taylor & Brown (1988) supported that by stating that:
- People have unrealistic positive views of the self – People judge positive traits more characteristic of self than negative traits. Negative traits are difficult to recall. People recall task performance better than it was. People believe they have improved when their performance hasn’t changed. (Taylor &Brown, 1988)
- Exaggerated perceptions of personal control – they believed that they have greater control over the environment than is actually the case. (Taylor & Brown, 1994)
- Unrealistic optimism- Taylor & Brown (1988) have proposed that unrealistic optimism may be quite ‘normal’, and may help us to be productive, happy and well adjusted, because it makes us more resilient and more persistent in coping with adversity.
Establishing the prevalence of positive illusion in non-pathological contribution was one of the most important contributions of this article (Taylor & Brown, 1994).
Taylor & Brown (1988) presented several arguments regarding the adaptiveness of positive illusion. First, they said that as motivation and persistence increase adaptiveness of positive illusion is much more very evident. Second, they said that since there is evidence positive illusion is more common to mentally healthy people than in depressed one. Third, there are times that illusions are maladaptive the presence of illusion is still there.
This view has since been questioned, however, partly because there turns out to be much less evidence than was first thought for ‘depressive realism’, where depressed individuals were expected to show less optimism and make more accurate judgments about the probability of future events (Colvin & Block, 1994).
- Colvin & Block questioned whether they were warranted in concluding that most people hold a positive illusion about themselves and of the world. Taylor and Brown answered this in the article they wrote in 1994; they mentioned that in their article in 1988 they were very much careful in pointing out that it is often hard to distinguish reality from illusion. (Taylor & Brown, 1994)
- Colvin & Block raised that the depiction of self-aggrandizing belief is illusory. They argue that it is entirely fitting for people to believe that they are better than others because people often (a) choose dimension of comparison on which they are advantage. (b) Define attributes in idiosyncratic ways they emphasize their perceived strength, or (c) select worse-off comparison groups that guarantee a favourable self-other comparison. Taylor & Brown explained that evidences continues to accumulate indicating that indicates that these so called self-aggrandizing views are linked to psychological well-being
- . They cited an Steinberg & Kolligan (1990) about a study in the achievement domain, it appears that a person with high self-perception of ability are more apt to attain success than people whose perception are more modest. They added that there are other studies that found out that overly optimistic assessment in ability is favourable during early childhood. They stand firm by their conclusion and believed that their 1998 concept is still supported, and there are still no evidence that will disprove their claims. (Taylor & Brown 1994).
In their last point, they point out that Colvin and Blocks concept is not directly relevant to their formulation because Colvin & Block’s concept dealt more on depressive people and depressive realism, while Taylor & Brown concentrated more on normal people’s responses.
Experimental Examples to Support Unrealistic Optimism
One example to support unrealistic optimism was the study conducted by Weinstein in 1980 where in he developed the idea of unrealistic optimism about future life events. He showed that optimistic biases were related to characteristics of the future event that subjects were asked to consider. These included how desirable, how probable and how controllable the events were perceived to be, how closely related they were to participants’ personal experience, and whether a stereotype existed of the type of person to whom the event was likely to happen to (Weinstein, 1980).
A study by Harris & Middleton (1994) about people’s rating for the probability of illness that affecting themselves and others (including acquaintance, friend’s friend and a typical student. It shows that Ratings for self were consistently lower than for a typical student, showing a standard optimism bias. There was much less of an optimism bias, however, when self was compared with an acquaintance or a friend’ s friend.
Sheppard et al. (1996) looked at students’ estimations of their examination performance and future salary. (They did not, however, ask the participants to estimate the exam performance and future salary of the average student, or their classmates, so the measures used were not standard ones of optimistic bias.) Estimates of future salary fell as students came closer to graduation, and estimates of examination grades fell as the time for evaluative feedback approached, suggesting that optimistic biases would be reduced when information about the outcomes of the events was anticipated.
Eiser and Arnold made another study and they concentrated on the perceived danger of sun exposure and they concluded that those who perceived self to be at greater risk motivated to take more precautions. Those people who take precautions inferred that negative effect of sun exposure to them is lowered.
Another recent study was conducted by Weinstein, Marcus and Moser (2004) about the unrealistic optimism of smokers regarding their risk. They have concluded that smokers underestimate their risk of lung cancer both relative to other smokers and to non-smokers and demonstrate other misunderstandings of smoking risks. Smoking cannot be interpreted as a choice made in the presence of full information about the potential harm.
Comparison on Taylor & Brown and Weinstein’s Adaptiveness to Positive Illusion
Weinstein (1980) acknowledges unrealistic optimism, concerns future events. It states that almost everyone believe that their own future is better that the average; good things are more likely to happen to them that to others; and bad things are likely to happen to them than to others. In his study he showed that there is a significant relationship between characteristics and the future events. These characteristics include – how desirable; how probable; and how controllable are the event that will come and how closely related it is to t he subject’s personal experience and whether stereotyping exist. His concept concentration is more on looking at the negative things that won’t happen to oneself. Findings of the concept was centred in the social satisfaction from favourable social comparison. (Weinstein, 1982)
Unlike Taylor & Brown’s concept which looks at once self and this is evident in their arguments about adaptiveness of positive illusion. First, they said that as motivation and persistence increase adaptiveness of positive illusion is much more very evident. Second, they said that since there is evidence positive illusion is more common to mentally healthy people than in depressed one. Third, there are times that illusions are maladaptive the presence of illusion is still there.
Contributions of Positive Illusion to Well Being
Illusion has a certain effect on our mental health. Positive Illusion contributes positive attitude and characteristics to a person. They are happy and contented people, able to share and care for others, are creative and productive workers.
Happy people have positive opinion about themselves, they think that they are very much in control of the situation and are more unrealistically optimistic.
When you have positive illusions you always have good moods and good moods makes people socialize more and care more
People who have positive illusions are also creative and productive workers because illusion of self-control and positivism fosters motivation, persistence at tasks, and more effective performance.
Even if there is a change in self-perception (like after failing a test) is is usually temporary — people move back to the original state (known as cognitive drift).Outline Taylor and Brown (1988) Challenge to Traditional Theories of Mental Health
Traditional theorist believed that accurate perception of the self and of the world is necessary for mental Health. (Taylor & Brown, 1988). Instead they disagree and proposed the idea that people’s perception in these domains are positively biased and that these positive illusions promote psychological well being.
- It challenged a major tenet of psychological thoughts by documenting that most people hold overly positive views of themselves, their ability to effect change in the environment and their future and
- It considered how positive illusion of this type contribute to the broad range of criteria consensually regarded as indicative psychological well being
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