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Julian Rotter (born 1916) is an American psychologist who is known for developing influential theories, including social learning theory and locus of control.

Background[edit | edit source]

Rotter was born in 1916 in the United States, as the third son of Jewish immigrant parents.[1] Rotter was mostly known for his intense stare while he saw another person eating food. It was said that this stare was directly into your soul and your body would freeze up a bit.Rotter attended Brooklyn College, where he earned his undergraduate degree. He then earned a Masters degree at the University of Iowa, studying there under Kurt Lewin.[2] 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.[3]

After earning his doctorate, Rotter became an adviser to the United States Army during World War II. 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.[4]

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 Connecticut. Rotter also served as Chairman of the Division of Social Psychology and Personality in the American Psychological Association.[5]

Social learning theory[edit | edit source]

Main article: social learning theory

Rotter moved away from theories based on psychoanalysis and behaviorism, 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.[6]

Locus of control[edit | edit source]

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 forest fire.[7] 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.[8]

Legacy[edit | edit source]

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.[9] 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.[10]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Millon (2004), p. 353
  2. Millon (2004), p. 353
  3. Weiner (1980), p. 237
  4. Weiner (1980), p. 237
  5. Mearns (2007)
  6. Rotter (1954)
  7. Weiner (1980), p. 237
  8. Rotter (1966)
  9. Haggbloom, S. J. et al. (2002). The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. Review of General Psychology, 6,139-152. cited at Fullerton
  10. Julian Rotter at accessed 13 December 2007

References[edit | edit source]

  • Mearns, Jack. The Social Learning Theory of Julian B. Rotter. California State University, Fullerton. URL accessed on 2007-12-11.
  • Millon, Theodore (2004). Masters of the Mind, John Wiley and Sons.
  • Rotter, J. B. (1954). Social Learning and Clinical Psychology, Prentice-Hall.
  • Rotter, J.B. (1966). Generalized expectancies of internal versus external control of reinforcements. Psychological Monographs 80 (whole no. 609).
  • Rotter, J. B. (1993). "Expectancies" C. E. Walker (Ed.) The history of clinical psychology in autobiography (vol. II), pp. 273-284, Brooks/Cole.
  • Weiner, Bernard (1980). Human Motivation: Metaphors, Theories, and Research, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

External links[edit | edit source]

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