Optimizing primary and secondary control in achievement settings: an examination of Rothbaum et al.'s (1982) Congruence Hypothesis

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Hall, Nathan C.
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Rothbaum, Weisz, and Snyder's (1982) dual-process model of control proposed that in addition to attempts to change one's environment (primary control, PC) or psychologically adjust to one's circumstances (secondary control, SC), the higher-order capacity to alternate between these processes in congruence with performance (optimization) served to foster development in achievement settings. The present five-phase longitudinal study conducted over an academic year explored how college students (n = 568) shift between PC and SC over time in response to actual performance feedback, as well as the differential effectiveness of congruent emphasis shifts for development based on the perceived ability to shift in a strategic manner. Dependent measures included academic achievement (course test scores), motivation (achievement orientation, perceived success and value, expectations), emotions (enjoyment, anxiety, boredom), health status (global health, illness symptoms), and overall adjustment (perceived stress, self-esteem, depression). Hypotheses were evaluated using phase-specific and cross-lagged structural equation models assessing moderation effects for perceived congruence ability. Results showed that students shift toward PC after success and toward SC following failure, and suggest an elaborated theoretical model of how PC and SC contribute to beliefs and behaviour involving strategic and congruent emphasis shifts. These findings also demonstrate that some individuals better recognize when this behaviour is most effective for their performance and well-being and strategically make congruent emphasis shifts to improve their subsequent development. In sum, this study highlights the benefits of one's ability to make strategic emphasis shifts between PC and SC in an academic achievement setting, and provides empirical support for this effective yet relatively unexplored facet of Rothbaum et al.'s model.
primary and secondary control, achievement, motivation