Chance Encounters and Fortuitous Events

Although people can and do exercise a significant amount of control over their lives, they cannot predict or anticipate all possible environmental changes. Bandura is the only personality theorist to seriously consider the possible importance of these chance encounters and fortuitous events.

Bandura (1998a) defined a chance encounter as "an unintended meeting of persons unfamiliar to each other" (p. 95). A fortuitous event is an environmental experience that is unexpected and unintended. The everyday lives of people are affected to a greater or lesser extent by the people they chance to meet and by random events they could not predict. One's marital partner, occupation, and place of residence may largely be the result of a fortuitous meeting that was unplanned and unexpected.

Just as fortuity lias influenced the lives of all of us, it has shaped the lives and careers of famous personality theorists. Two such examples are Abraham H. Maslow (Chapter 10) and Hans J. Eysenck (Chapter 14). As a young man, Maslow was exceedingly shy, especially with women. At the same time, he was passionately in love with his cousm Bertha Goodman, but he was too bashful to express his love. One day while he was visitmg his cousin's home, Bertha's older sister pushed him toward his beloved cousin, saying: "For the love of Pete, kiss her, will ya!" (Hoffman, 1988, p. 29). Maslow did and to his surprise, Bertha did not fight back. She kissed him, and from that moment, Maslow's previously ahnless life became transformed.

Also, Hans Eysenck, the noted British psychologist, came to psychology completely by chance. He had intended to study physics at the University of London, but first he had to pass an entrance examination. After waiting a year to take the exam, he was told that he had prepared for the wrong test, and that he would have to wait another year to take the right one. Rather than delaying his education further, he asked whether there might be any scientific subject that he could pursue. When told that he could enroll hi a psychology program, Eysenck asked "What on earth is psychology?" (Eysenck, 1982, p. 290). Eysenck, of course, went on to major hi psychology and to become one of the world's most famous psychologists.

Fortuity adds a separate dimension in any scheme used to predict human behavior, and it makes accurate predictions practically impossible. However, chance encounters influence people only by entering the triadic reciprocal causation paradigm at point E (environment) and adding to the mutual interaction of person, behavior, and environment. In this sense, chance encounters influence people in the same maimer as do planned events. Once a chance encounter occurs, people behave toward then new acquaintance accordhig to then attitudes, belief systems, and interests as well as to the other person's reaction to them. Thus, whereas many chance encounters and unplanned events have little or no influence on people's behavior, "others have more lasting effects, and still others thrust people hito new life trajectories" (Bandura, 2001, p. 12).

Chance encounters and fortuitous events are not uncontrollable. Indeed people can make chance happen. A divorced man looking for an opportunity to remarry will increase his chance of meeting a potential wife by perushig a proactive course of action, for example, by joining a singles club, going to places where he is likely to find single women, or askhig a friend to introduce him to an eligible potential mate. If he meets an eligible and desirable woman, he increases his chances for a lasting relationship if he has prepared himself to be attractive or interesting to women. Bandura (2001, p. 12) quotes Louis Pasteur: "Chance favors only the prepared mind." Conversely, the prepared person is able to escape unpleasant chance encounters and fortuitous events by anticipating their possibility and taking steps to minimize any negative impact they may have on future development.

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  • yemane
    What is chance encounters and fortuitous events in psychology?
    3 years ago
  • Selina
    How fortuitous events affect the laboratory?
    8 months ago
  • welde
    How do chance encounters determine behaviour?
    2 months ago

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