Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in AGENCY, MOTIVATION, AND THE LIFE COURSE: VOLUME 48 OF THE NEBRASKA SYMPOSIUM ON MOTIVATION, ed. Richard Dienstbier and Lisa J. Crockett. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2002. Pages 1–31. Copyright © 2002 University of Nebraska Press. Used by permission.


The capacity of humans to influence their lives has long been a theme within Western literature, philosophy, and psychology. In recent years, the theme of human agency has crystallized in the psychological literature in the concepts of control, self-regulation, and self-efficacy. As a result, considerable attention has been devoted to the psychological processes through which control is exerted, such as cognitive appraisals, goal setting, and planning, as well as control beliefs and the potentially debilitating effects of loss of control (e.g., Bandura, 1997; Boekaerts, Pintrich, & Zeidner, 2000; Carver & Scheier, 1998; Seligman, 1975). Although this body of work has yielded pivotal insights into the mental processes underlying human agency, it has tended to focus on the person, with scant attention to the environmental exigencies over which the person seeks to exert control. An environment is assumed, but it is the individual's perception of and response to that environment that is considered central, rather than the environment per se. Accordingly, there has been little attempt to delineate the facets of the environment that may be influential in shaping the expression of self-determination.