Encoding Strategies

One important cognitive-affective unit that ultimately affects behavior is people s personal constructs and encoding strategies: that is, people s ways of categorizing information received from external sthnuli. People use cognitive processes to transform these stimuli mto personal constructs, including their self-concept, then view of other people, and their way of looking at the world. Different people encode the same events in different ways, which accounts for individual differences in personal constructs. For example, one person may react angrily when insulted whereas another may choose to ignore the same insult. In addition, the same person may encode the same event differently in different situations. For example, a woman who ordinarily construes a telephone call from her best friend as a pleasant experience may hi one situation perceive it as a nuisance.

Stimulus hiputs are substantially altered by what people selectively attend how they hiterpret then experience, and the way in winch they categorize those inputs. Mischel and former PhD student Bert Moore (1973) found that children can transform environmental events by focusing on selected aspects of stimulus inputs. In this delay-of-gratification study, children exposed to pictures of rewards (snacks or pennies) were able to wait longer for the rewards than were children who were encouraged to cognitively construct (imagine) real rewards while viewing the pictures. A previous study (Mischel, Ebbesen, & Zeiss, 1972) had demonstrated that children exposed to real rewards dining a wait period had more difficulty waiting than those exposed to no reward. Results of these two studies suggested that, hi at least some situations, cognitive transformations of sthnuli can have about the same effect as actual stimuli.

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