Transcript of "Autobiography of julian rotter....aizel"
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October 22, 1916
Brooklyn, New York
Institutions University of Connecticut
Alma mater Indiana University
social learning theory, Rotter Incomplete
Sentence Blank and Locus of Control
Kurt Lewin, Alfred Adler, Kenneth
Spence, Clark Hull, B.F. Skinner,
Edward Tolman and George Kelly
Influenced Walter Mischel
Julian B. Rotter (born October 22, 1916) is an American psychologist who is known for
developing influential theories, including social learning theory and locus of control.
• 1 Background
• 2 Social learning theory
• 3 Locus of control
• 4 Legacy
• 5 Notes
• 6 References
• 7 External links
Rotter was born in 1916 in Brooklyn, New York, United States, as the third son of Jewish
In the years of elementary and secondary schools, he became
interested with psychology and philosophy through readings.
Rotter attended Brooklyn
College in 1933, where he earned his undergraduate degree. He majored in Chemistry
even though he found psychology to be more fascinating due to the fact that there were
more opportunities to make money, while the economy was failing.
While studying in
Brooklyn College, Wood and Solomon Asch, teachers at the college, influenced his
development as psychologist. Wood inspired him by his lectures on the scientific method.
Asch was intensely involved in the controversy between Gestalt and Thorndykian views
of learning and thus he influenced Rotter's interest in psychology.
He then earned a
Masters degree at the University of Iowa, studying there under Kurt Lewin.
After he earned his Master’s degree at the University of Iowa, he was able to obtain an
internship at the Worcester State Hospital. At the time it may have been the only formal
internship in psychology. While at Worcester State Hospital, David Shakow, Saul
Rosenzweig, and Elliot Rodnick provided stimulation and training in research and
practice in clinical psychology. At Worchester was also where he met Clara Barnes,
another intern whom he later married. Through his work with Kurt Lewin, he became
interested with a level of aspiration. At Worchester was where he had designed and built
the Level of Aspiration Board as an individual personality measure. He continued his
work at the University of Indiana where he encountered success and failure using the
level of aspiration paradigms at the Indiana University. He then earned a doctorate in
1941 at Indiana University. Through his education, Rotter was influenced by Alfred
Adler, Clark Hull, B.F. Skinner, and Edward Tolman.
He was influenced by Wendell
Johnson, a general semanticist, who impressed on him the need for careful definitions in
psychology and the myriad of pitfalls involved in poorly defined and poorly
operationalized constructs 
In 1963, Rotter moved to the University of Connecticut, and
became the director of clinical training. The Interpersonal Trust Scale, a research measure
of the stable individual difference in personality, was developed by Rotter around that
After earning his doctorate, Rotter became an adviser to the United States Army during
World War II. In the Army, Rotter worked as a psychologist, except for 17 weeks in
officer candidate training as a tank officer.
He then went to Ohio State University,
where he taught and served as the chairman of the clinical psychology program. At Ohio
State, Rotter was influenced by George Kelly. Rotter then went to the University of
Connecticut, where he remained for his career.
Rotter was also appointed as president
of the American Psychological Association Division of Clinical Psychology, the Eastern
Psychological Association, as well as the American Psychology Association Division of
Social and Personal.
Rotter's seminal work, Social Learning and Clinical Psychology was published in 1954.
In 1963, he became the Program Director of Clinical Psychology at the University of
Social learning theory
Main article: Social learning theory
Rotter moved away from theories based on psychoanalysis and behaviourism, and
developed a social learning theory. In Social Learning and Clinical Psychology (1954),
Rotter suggested that the expected effect or outcome of the behavior has an impact on
motivation of people to engage in that behavior. People wish to avoid negative
consequences, while desiring positive results or effects. If one expects a positive outcome
from a behavior, or thinks there is a high probability of a positive outcome, then they will
be more likely to engage in the behavior. The behavior is reinforced, with positive
outcomes, leading a person to repeat the behavior. This social learning theory suggests
that behavior is influenced by social context or environmental factors, and not
psychological factors alone.
Locus of control
Main article: Locus of control
In 1966, Rotter published his famous I-E scale in the journal "Psychological
Monographs", to assess internal and external locus of control. This scale has been widely
used in the psychology of personality, although its use of a two-alternative forced choice
technique has made it subject to criticism. Rotter himself was astounded by how much
attention this scale generated, claiming that it was like lighting a cigarette and seeing a
He himself believed that the scale was an adequate measure of just two
concepts, achievement motivation (which he took to be linked with internal locus of
control) and outer-directedeness, or tendency to conform to others (which he took to be
associated with external locus of control). Critics of the scale have frequently voiced
concern that locus of control is not as homogenous a concept as Rotter believed.
Rotter has been reported as one of the most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. He
was 18th in frequency of citations in journal articles and 64th in overall eminence.
seminal studies of the variable of internal versus external locus of control provided the
foundation of prolific research on choice and perceived control in several disciplines. His
pioneer social learning framework transformed behavioural approaches to personality and
He had two children after marrying Clara Barnes, whom he had met at Worcester State.
Rotter was married from 1941 until his wife died in 1985.
The Social Learning Theory of
Julian B. Rotter
Julian B. Rotter was born in October 1916 in Brooklyn, NY, the third son of Jewish
immigrant parents. Rotter's father ran a successful business until the Great Depression.
The Depression powerfully influenced Rotter to be aware of social injustice and the
effects of the situational environment on people. Rotter's interest in psychology began
when he was in high school and read books by Freud and Adler. Rotter attended
Brooklyn College, where he began attending seminars given by Adler and meetings of his
Society of Individual Psychology in Adler's home.
After graduation, Rotter attended the University of Iowa, where he took classes with Kurt
Lewin. Rotter minored in speech pathology and studied with the semanticist Wendell
Johnson, whose ideas had an enduring influence on Rotter's thinking about the use and
misuse of language in psychological science. Upon finishing his master's degree, Rotter
took an internship in clinical psychology -- one of the few available at the time -- at
Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts. In 1939, Rotter started his Ph.D. work at
Indiana University, one of the few programs to offer a doctorate in clinical psychology.
There, he completed his dissertation on level of aspiration and graduated in 1941. By
earning his Ph.D. in clinical psychology after having done a predoctoral internship,
Rotter became one of the very first clinical psychologists trained in what is now the
After service in the Army and Air Force during World War II, Rotter took an academic
position at Ohio State University. It was here that he embarked on his major
accomplishment, social learning theory, which integrated learning theory with personality
theory. He published Social Learning and Clinical Psychologyin 1954. Rotter also held
strong beliefs about how clinical psychologists should be educated. He was an active
participant in the 1949 Boulder Conference, which defined the training model for
doctoral level clinical psychologists. He spoke persuasively that psychologists must be
trained in psychology departments, not under the supervision of psychiatrists. His ideas
are still influential today (Herbert, 2002).
In 1963, Rotter left Ohio State to become the director of the clinical psychology training
program at the University of Connecticut. He is now professor emeritus there. (Please
follow this link for a recent profile of Julian Rotter in UConn Today.)
Rotter has served as president of the American Psychological Association's divisions of
Social and Personality Psychology and Clinical Psychology. In 1989, he was given the
American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Contribution award.
Rotter was married to Clara Barnes, whom he had met at Worcester State, from 1941
until her death in 1985. They had two children.
[The above information is based on a biographical essay written by Julian Rotter: Rotter, J. B. (1993).
Expectancies. In C. E. Walker (Ed.), The history of clinical psychology in autobiography (vol. II) (pp. 273-
284). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole. Photos courtesy of University of Connecticut.]
Overview of Theory
When Rotter developed his social learning theory, the dominant perspective in clinical
psychology at the time was Freud's Psychoanalysis, which focused on people's deep-
seated instinctual motives as determining behavior. Individuals were seen as being naive
to their unconscious impulses, and treatment required long-term analysis of childhood
experience. Even learning approaches at the time were dominated by drive theory, which
held that people are motivated by physiologically-based impulses that press the
individual to satisfy them. In developing social learning theory, Rotter departed from
instinct-based Psychoanalysis and drive-based behaviorism. He believed that a
psychological theory should have a psychological motivational principle. Rotter chose
the empirical law of effect as his motivating factor. The law of effect states that people
are motivated to seek out positive stimulation, or reinforcement, and to avoid unpleasant
stimulation. Rotter combined behaviorism and the study of personality, without relying
on physiological instincts or drives as a motive force.
The main idea in Julian Rotter's social learning theory is that personality represents an
interaction of the individual with his or her environment. One cannot speak of a
personality, internal to the individual, that is independent of the environment. Neither can
one focus on behavior as being an automatic response to an objective set of
environmental stimuli. Rather, to understand behavior, one must take both the individual
(i.e., his or her life history of learning and experiences) and the environment (i.e., those
stimuli that the person is aware of and responding to) into account. Rotter describes
personality as a relatively stable set of potentials for responding to situations in a
Rotter sees personality, and therefore behavior, as always changeable. Change the way
the person thinks, or change the environment the person is responding to, and behavior
will change. He does not believe there is a critical period after which personality is set.
But, the more life experience you have building up certain sets of beliefs, the more effort
and intervention required for change to occur. Rotter conceives of people in an optimistic
way. He sees them as being drawn forward by their goals, seeking to maximize their
reinforcement, rather than just avoiding punishment.
Rotter has four main components to his social learning theory model predicting behavior.
These are behavior potential, expectancy, reinforcement value, and the psychological
Behavior Potential. Behavior potential is the likelihood of engaging in a particular
behavior in a specific situation. In other words, what is the probability that the person
will exhibit a particular behavior in a situation? In any given situation, there are multiple
behaviors one can engage in. For each possible behavior, there is a behavior potential.
The individual will exhibit whichever behavior has the highest potential.
Expectancy. Expectancy is the subjective probability that a given behavior will lead to a
particular outcome, or reinforcer. How likely is it that the behavior will lead to the
outcome? Having "high" or "strong" expectancies means the individual is confident the
behavior will result in the outcome. Having low expectancies means the individual
believes it is unlikely that his or her behavior will result in reinforcement. If the outcomes
are equally desirable, we will engage in the behavior that has the greatest likelihood of
paying off (i.e., has the highest expectancy). Expectancies are formed based on past
experience. The more often a behavior has led to reinforcement in the past, the stronger
the person's expectancy that the behavior will achieve that outcome now.
It is important to note that expectancy is a subjective probability, because one common
source of pathology is irrational expectancies. There may be no relationship whatsoever
between the person's subjective assessment of how likely a reinforcement will be and the
actual, objective probability of the reinforcer's occurring. People can either over- or
underestimate this likelihood, and both distortions can potentially be problematic.
Reinforcement Value. Reinforcement is another name for the outcomes of our behavior.
Reinforcement value refers to the desirability of these outcomes. Things we want to
happen, that we are attracted to, have a high reinforcement value. Things we don't want to
happen, that we wish to avoid, have a low reinforcement value. If the likelihood of
achieving reinforcement is the same, we will exhibit the behavior with the greatest
reinforcement value (i.e., the one directed toward the outcome we prefer most).
As with expectancy, reinforcement value is subjective, meaning that the same event or
experience can vastly differ in desirability, depending on the individual's life experience.
Punishment from a parent would be negatively reinforcing to most children, and
something to be avoided. However, children who get little positive attention from parents
can seek out parental punishment because it has a higher reinforcement value than
The value of any given reinforcer is determined in part by other future reinforcers it
might lead to. For example, doing well on an exam in a particular class would have a
heightened reinforcement value, if you believe that doing well in that class will lead to
being able to work in your professor's lab. Therefore, even an apparently trivial event can
have a very strong reinforcement value, either positive or negative, if the individual sees
it as leading to other strongly valued reinforcers.
The least amount of reinforcement that still has a positive value is known as the minimal
goal. If people achieve an outcome that equals or exceeds their minimal goal, they will
feel that they have succeeded. When the level of reinforcement falls below an individual's
minimal goal, that reinforcement feels like failure. People differ in their minimal goals.
Thus, the same outcome may represent success to one person (with a lower minimal goal)
while it feels like failure to another person (with a higher minimal goal).
Predictive Formula. Behavior Potential (BP), Expectancy (E) and Reinforcement Value
(RV) can be combined into a predictive formula for behavior:
BP = f(E & RV)
This formula can be read as follows: behavior potential is a function of expectancy and
reinforcement value. Or, in other words, the likelihood of a person's exhibiting a
particular behavior is a function of the probability that that behavior will lead to a given
outcome and the desirability of that outcome. If expectancy and reinforcement value are
both high, then behavior potential will be high. If either expectancy or reinforcement
value is low, then behavior potential will be lower.
Psychological Situation. Although the psychological situation does not figure directly
into Rotter's formula for predicting behavior, Rotter believes it is always important to
keep in mind that different people interpret the same situation differently. Again, it is
people's subjective interpretation of the environment, rather than an objective array of
stimuli, that is meaningful to them and that determines how they behave.
Generality versus Specificity. An important dimension of personality theories is the
generality versus specificity of its constructs. General constructs are broad and abstract,
while specific constructs are narrow and concrete. Both types of constructs have their
advantages. A theory with general constructs allows one to make many predictions,
across situations, from knowing only a small amount of information. The disadvantage of
general constructs, though, is that they are harder to measure and the predictions made
from them have a lower level of accuracy. Specific constructs, on the other hand, are
easier to measure, and they can be used to make more accurate predictions. However,
these predictions are limited to being situation-specific.
For example, knowing that someone is a generally hostile person allows us to make
predictions that this individual will be hostile toward a range of people. Across situations,
this person is likely to be more hostile to others than someone who is low in hostility.
However, our ability predict how hostile this person would be to Jane, for example, is
limited, because there may be other factors that determine whether this individual will
treat Jane in a hostile way during a particular encounter (e.g., person likes Jane, or
situational factors inhibit an expression of hostility). On the other hand, if we know that
this person hates Jane, we can predict with a high level of accuracy that this person will
be hostile toward Jane. But, we will not be able to predict whether this person will treat
other people in a hostile way.
A strength of Rotter's social learning theory is that it explicitly blends specific and
general constructs, offering the benefits of each. In social learning theory, all general
constructs have a specific counterpart. For every situationally specific expectancy there is
a cross-situational generalized expectancy. Social learning theory blends generality and
specificity to enable psychologists to measure variables and to make a large number of
accurate predictions from these variables.
"Locus of Control." For many people, their only exposure to the ideas of Julian B.
Rotter is his concept of generalized expectancies for control of reinforcement, more
commonly known as locus of control. 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.
People with a strong internal locus of control believe that the responsibility for whether
or not they get reinforced ultimately lies with themselves. Internals believe that success
or failure is due to their own efforts. In contrast, externals believe that the reinforcers in
life are controlled by luck, chance, or powerful others. Therefore, they see little impact of
their own efforts on the amount of reinforcement they receive.
Rotter has written extensively on problems with people's interpretations of the locus of
control concept. First, he has warned people that locus of control is not a typology. It is
not an either/or proposition. Second, because locus of control is a generalized expectancy
it will predict people's behavior across situations. However, there may be some specific
situations where people, for example, who are generally external behave like internals.
That is because their learning history has shown them that they have control over the
reinforcement they receive in certain situations, although overall they perceive little
control over what happens to them. Again, one can see the importance of conceiving of
personality as the interaction of the person and the environment.
Psychopathology and Treatment. Rotter is very opposed to the medical model
conception of mental disorders as being diseases or illnesses. Rather, he conceives of
psychological problems as maladaptive behavior brought about by faulty or inadequate
learning experiences. For Rotter, the symptoms of pathology, like all behavior, are
learned. Therefore, treatment should be considered a learning situation where adaptive
behaviors and cognitions are taught, and the therapist-client relationship is viewed as
being similar to a teacher-student relationship. A warm relationship between client and
therapist gives the therapist more reinforcement value for the client. This allows the
therapist to influence the client's behavior more through praise and encouragement. Much
of current cognitive-behavioral treatment has its roots in Rotter's social learning theory,
although these debts often go unacknowledged.
According to Rotter, pathology can develop due to difficulties at any point in his
predictive formula. Behavior can be maladaptive, because the individual never learned
more adaptive behaviors. In this case, the therapist would make direct suggestions about
new behaviors to try and would use techniques such as role-playing to develop more
effective coping skills.
Expectancies can lead to pathology when they are irrationally low. If people have low
expectancies, they do not believe their behaviors will be reinforced. Consequently, they
put little effort into their behaviors. If they don't try to succeed, they are likely to fail.
And when they fail, it confirms their low expectancies. This process of decreasing
expectancies is a common occurrence in pathology known as a vicious cycle. When
clients have low expectancies, therapists attempt to increase clients' confidence by using
their therapeutic influence to help clients (a) gain insight into the irrationality of their
expectancies, and (b) attempt behaviors they have been avoiding out of fear of failure. In
general, social learning therapists always attempt to raise their clients' expectancies for
Lastly, reinforcement value problems can lead to pathology. Reinforcers are the goals
we seek in life. If people set unrealistically high and unobtainable goals for themselves
(i.e., have too high minimal goals), they are likely to experience frequent failure. This
failure can lead to the development of the vicious cycle described above. In this situation,
therapists would help clients to lower their minimal goals, developing reasonable,
achievable standards for themselves. Flexibility in setting minimal goals is one sign of
good mental health. It is better to strive, step by step, to achieve a series of goals than it is
to set one distant, lofty goal for oneself. A Rotter therapist also wants clients to consider
the long-term consequences of behavior, rather than just short-term consequences.
Importance to the Field of Psychology
Julian B. Rotter has been cited as one of the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th
century. Haggbloom et al. (2002) found that Rotter was 18th in frequency of citations in
journal articles and 64th in overall eminence.
• Haggbloom, S. J. et al. (2002). The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. Review of
General Psychology, 6, 139-152.
Contemporary Research in Social Learning Theory
Personality research is still being done using Rotter's highly flexible framework.
Catanzaro and Mearns have used social learning theory to define generalized
expectancies for negative mood regulation (NMR). NMR expectancies represent beliefs
people have about their ability to control the unpleasant moods they experience. In
keeping with Rotter's theory, these expectancies predict how people cope with a variety
of upsetting events, as well as the outcomes of that coping in terms of mood and health.
Click here to go to the NMR Research Page.
Rotter has numerous publications spanning over seven decades. This section will
highlight his most important contributions to the literature. Interested parties should
consult these works for a more in-depth description of the concepts introduced on this
• Rotter, J. B. (1942). Level of aspiration as a method of studying personality. II.
Development and evaluation of a controlled method. Journal of Experimental
Psychology, 31, 410-422.
• Rotter, J. B., & Rafferty, J. E. (1950). The Rotter Incomplete Sentences Blank
manual: College form. New York: Psychological Corp.
• Rotter, J. B. (1954). Social learning and clinical psychology. New York: Prentice-
• Rotter, J. B. (1960). Some implications of a social learning theory for the
prediction of goal directed behavior from testing procedures. Psychological
Review, 67, 301-316.
• Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control
of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80. (Whole No. 609).
• Rotter, J. B. (1970). Some implications of a social learning theory for the practice
of psychotherapy. In D. Levis (Ed.), Learning approaches to therapeutic
behavior change. Chicago: Aldine Press.
• Rotter, J. B. (1971). Generalized expectancies for interpersonal trust. American
Psychologist, 26, 443-452.
• Rotter, J. B. (1971). On the evaluation of methods of intervening in other people's
lives. Clinical Psychologist, 24, 1.
• Rotter, J. B., Chance, J. E., & Phares, E. J. (1972). Applications of a social
learning theory of personality. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
• Rotter, J. B. (1975). Some problems and misconceptions related to the construct
of internal versus external control of reinforcement. Journal of Consulting and
Clinical Psychology, 43, 56-67.
• Rotter, J. B. (1978). Generalized expectancies for problem solving and
psychotherapy. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 2, 1-10.
• Rotter, J. B. (1980). Interpersonal trust, trustworthiness and gullibility. American
Psychologist, 26, 1-7.
• Rotter, J. B. (1981). The psychological situation in social learning theory. In D.
Magnusson (Ed.), Toward a psychology of situations: An interactional
perspective. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
• Rotter, J. B. (1982). The development and applications of social learning theory.
New York: Praeger.
• Rotter, J. B. (1989). Internal versus external control of reinforcement: A case
history of a variable. American Psychologist, 45, 489-493.
• Rotter, J. B., Lah, M. I., & Rafferty, J. E. (1992). Rotter Incomplete Sentences
Blank Second Edition manual. New York: Psychological Corporation.
• Mearns, J. (2009). Social learning theory. In H. Reis & S. Sprecher (Eds.),
Encyclopedia of human relationships (vol. 3) (pp. 1537-1540). Thousand Oaks,
Rotter, Julian B.
Julian B. Rotter (October 1916-) is a clinical psychologist, educator, and author, known
for his theories in social and personality psychology, who was influential in establishing
psychology as an independent field from medicine.
Julian B. Rotter was born in October 1916 to a Jewish middle class family in Brooklyn,
New York. Rotter's family's circumstances were comfortable until the Great Depression
when his father's stationary business failed. In high school Rotter started reading works
by eminent psychologists Freud and Adler. In 1933 he entered Brooklyn College with a
serious interest in psychology but chose to major in chemistry since it led to a more
reliable source of income. However, Rotter still attended many psychology courses, some
of which were offered by Solomon Asch. He started to attend lectures given by Viennese
psychiatrist Alfred Adler at a medical school nearby, and later attended monthly meetings
of the Society of Individual Psychology ... [read more]