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J Appl Psychol. 2005 Jan;90(1):38-52.

The depth of history and explanation as benefit and bane for psychological control theories.

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  • 1Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701, USA.


A longstanding debate has recently re-erupted in the self-regulation literature around the concept of self-efficacy. This article presents an argument that the debate emerges from a lack of understanding of the history of control theories within both the social and physical sciences and the various levels of explanation to which phenomena can be subjected. This history, coupled with the issues of determinism, materialism, and empiricism evoked by the deeper level of explanation that some versions of control theory provide, has led some critics to mis-apply non-psychological properties to control theories and obscure their usefulness. Here, the usefulness of a deeper control theory level of explanation is illustrated using comparisons with explanations found in goal-setting theory and social cognitive theory.

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