THE SOCIAL – COGNITIVE APPROACH : THE POWER OF BELIEFS
Each of the perspectives we have considered has drawn our attention to a different aspect of the personality puzzle. Trait theorists remind us that people do have stable, internal predispositions—that is, traits—and an emphasis on these traits allowed us to explore a number of crucial issues, such as the biological underpinnings of personality. Psychodynamic theorists remind us of the importance of unconscious motivations and conflicts, and the need to dig beneath the surface in our understanding of who each of us is. Humanistic theorists, in turn, remind us that humans have positive motivations as well as negative ones—goals we hope to achieve, and not just hardships or tensions we want to avoid or reduce.
The social-cognitive approach to personality endorses all of these claims, but notes that we have still paid insufficient attention to one essential part of the puzzle— namely, the power of people’s beliefs in shaping their responses to others and to the world around them. We saw the first inklings of this emphasis on beliefs in our discus-sion of the self, and the ways in which the self-schema influences our emotions and actions. However, in the social-cognitive approach, our beliefs about ourselves and our world take center stage.
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