As a hypothetical means of predicting specific behaviors, Rotter proposed a basic formula that includes all four variables of prediction. The formula represents an idealistic rather than a practical means of prediction, and no precise values can be plugged into it. Consider the case of La Juan, an academically gifted college student who is listening to a dull and lengthy lecture by one of her professors. To the internal cues of boredom and the external cues of seeing slumbering classmates, what is the likelihood that La Juan will respond by resting her head on the desk in an attempt to sleep? The psychological situation alone is not responsible for her behavior, but it mteracts with her expectancy for reinforcement plus the reinforcement value of sleep hi that particular situation. La Juan's behavior potential can be estimated by Rotter's (1982, p. 302) basic formula for the prediction of goal-directed behavior:
This formula is read: The potential for behavior .v to occur in situation 1 in relation to reinforcement a is a function of the expectancy that behavior .v will be followed by reinforcement a in situation 1 and the value of reinforcement a in situation 1.
Applied to our example, the formula suggests that the likelihood (behavior potential or BP) that La Juan will rest her head on her desk (behavior x) hi a dull and borhig class with other students slumbering (the psychological situation or sj) with the goal of sleep (reinforcement or ra) is a function of her expectation that such behavior (Ex) will be followed by sleep (ra) hi this particular classroom situation (s j), plus a measure of how highly she desires to sleep (reinforcement value or RVa) hi this specific situation (.v). Because precise measurement of each of these variables may be beyond the scientific study of human behavior, Rotter proposed a strategy for predicthig general behaviors.
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