You will recognize that positive psychology is encroaching on a
stronghold of religion, namely, positive thinking. To his credit, Norman
Vincent Peale helped us think positively about the power of positive
thinking. Other tel-evangelists also jumped on the bandwagon, such as
Robert Schuller. The problem is this: religion relies primarily on faith
and prayer to give us hope. Mental health professionals say religious
optimists imply that all problems are solved quickly, easily,
automatically just by simply being religious and expecting miraculous
changes (Santrock, Minnett & Campbell, 1994). Science doesn't
immediately accept this assumption. Psychology relies on science and
the laws of behavior to discover specific, proven methods of solving
problems. Knowledge is a source of power and optimism.
Do you see yourself as having a lot of control over what happens
in your life? "Believe in yourself" is common advice. Americans are
more likely to believe they can control their lives than are people in
other cultures. When asked why one person succeeds while another
with the same skills and training fails, about 1% of Americans say it is
fate or God's will, while 30% of people in developing countries give
this explanation (Sears, Peplau, Freedman & Taylor, 1988, p. 153).
What would your answer be? Perhaps this difference between cultures
is due to our having more opportunities to do what we want or due to
our greater need to blame the poor for their poverty or due to our
thinking more of ourselves as individuals having free will or due to
different religious views or due to some other factors.
What were the results of your Internalizer-Externalizer (I-E) test in
chapter 8? The I-E scale clearly measures whether you believe you are
in control of what happens in your life or not--your locus of control. It
does not measure, perhaps, the degree of control you think you have--
your self-efficacy (see below). But it seems unlikely that you would
see yourself as an internalizer and responsible for guiding your life
and, at the same time, believe you are (and actually be) ineffective in
doing so. We are just learning some of the complexities involved in
measuring self-confidence and personal power (see Sappington, et al.
Bandura (1986) believes that self-efficacy judgments, i.e. one's
belief in his/her ability to effectively control specific events in
his/her life, play a role in almost everything we do, think, and feel.
Hundreds of research studies support this notion (see Bandura's
chapter 9) and hundreds of wonderful children's stories, like The Little
Engine that Could, illustrate the importance of a positive attitude. The
average person agrees that self-efficacy influences our actions; we'd
call it confidence or belief in ourselves or a sense of personal power.
However, self-efficacy is not used by most researchers as a global
concept; it is not a single score applied to all aspects of your life. Self-
efficacy is a judgment about your competence in one specific situation.
It is easy to see why. To believe you could effectively handle almost
any problem situation--e.g. bring peace to the world, replace fossil