A general approach to the self-regulation of behaviour is outlined, in which people's continued efforts are seen as being partly determined by their outcome expectancies. If difficulties are not encountered either before or during an act, behaviour proceeds smoothly. If, however, difficulties are anticipated or encountered, the person considers (momentarily or for a longer period) the likelihood of attaining the desired outcome. Behavioural responses to this assessment form a rough dichotomy. Confidence of successful goal attainment promotes continued effort, even if the task is frustrating or anxiety provoking. Sufficient doubt about successful goal attainment promotes an impulse to disengage from further effort. This impulse sometimes is expressed overtly, sometimes covertly as psychological or mental disengagement. This analysis has served as a basis for exploring the dynamics underlying test anxiety and other discrete problems in self-management. More recently it has been used to explore the nature of optimism and pessimism. The diversity of the domains to which the theoretical principles have been applied suggests that they may also be of use as an orientation toward issues in educational research.
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