Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F.   (1998). On the Self-Regulation of Behavior.
New York:  Cambridge University Press.

This book presents a thorough overview of a model of human functioning based on the idea that behavior is goal-directed and regulated by feedback control processes.  It describes feedback processes and their application to behavior; considers goals and the idea that goals are organized hierarchically; examines affect as deriving from a different kind of feedback process; and analyzes how success expectancies influence whether people keep trying to attain goals or disengage. Later sections consider a series of emerging themes, including dynamic systems as a model for shifting among goals, catastrophe theory as a model for persistence, and the question of whether behavior is controlled or instead “emerges.”  Three chapters consider implications of these various ideas for understanding maladaptive behavior; a closing chapter asks whether goals are a necessity of life.  Throughout, theory is followed by raising of diverse issues linking the theory to other literatures.

This book is a reader-friendly description of a viewpoint on human behavior which sees all behavior as aimed at attaining goals.  A wide variety of topics are treated (the theory is specific in type, but has very diverse applications)—ranging from goals, to emotion, to persistence and giving up, to living and dying.  Both adaptive behavior and problems in behavior are examined.  The book blends ideas that have long been part of self-regulation models with ideas that are recently emergent in psychology:  dynamic systems and catastrophe theory.  It also blends theoretical statement with wide-ranging discussion of issues.

This book is aimed at researchers and graduate students, primarily in personality-social psychology, but with  application in health, clinical-counseling, organizational, and motivational psychology.  The book is ideal for a graduate student who wants to start from zero knowledge and come up to speed in several different domains very quickly, as it assumes no prior technical knowledge or even knowledge of the research areas it addresses.  It does, however, also incorporate information and discussions that will feel new and different even to people who have had extensive background in these areas.

A somewhat more abbreviated treatment of many of these themes is also available in a target chapter (followed by critique and commentary from a number of other authors, followed by our reply to the commentaries) in R. S. Wyer, Jr. (Ed.), Advances in Social Cognition, Volume 12, 1999.  The reply chapter includes discussion of some issues that go beyond those raised in the 1998 book.

A complete table of contents of the 1998 book can be found here .

The Cambridge page on the book, including directions for ordering, can be found here:

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University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology