Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
You must imagine your life … and then it happens.(John Updike, The Witches of Eastwick)
To say that behavior is regulated by feedback processes is to assume the existence of reference values for behavior. In this chapter we consider reference values and some differences among them. For most practical purposes the term reference value is interchangeable with the term goal. Life, in this framework, is a continual process of establishing goals and adjusting patterns of behavior to match those goals more closely, using informational feedback as a guide.
This emphasis on goals is very much in line with a growing emphasis on goal constructs in today's personality–social psychology (Austin & Vancouver, 1996; Elliott & Dweck, 1988; Miller & Read, 1987; Pervin, 1982, 1989). A variety of labels are used in this literature, reflecting differences in the emphases that various writers place on aspects of the goal construct. The next section briefly reviews a few of these constructs.
An Overview of Broad Goal Constructs
One of the earliest of this generation of goal constructs was Klinger's (1975, 1977) use of the phrase current concern to describe goals with which a person is presently engaged. This phrase conveys the sense that the goals are temporary. They occupy the mind for a while but eventually yield to other concerns. The phrase also suggests a sense of mental engagement with an issue or problem, a quality of unfinished business.