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Cognitive Processes in Career Decision-Making--A Summary

Hilton, Thomas L.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Office of Education, Career Choice, Cognitive Processes, Decision Making


Cognitive processes involved in career decision making were investigated in twenty undergraduate and graduate students during their final year of school. The objectives were to identify strategies used to overcome decision making difficulty, and to identify their short term effects on career development. Measures included the Twenty Statements Test of Self Attitudes, the Allport- Vernon-Lindsey Study of Values, Ghiselli's Self Description Inventory, a values test based on Rosenberg, and a series of interviews. A new decision making model, the social dissonance model, was proposed: that the decision making process is primarily an effort to achieve a low level of dissonance among one's beliefs or premises and one's perception of one's behavior. This model provided a good fit to the results. As predicted, systematic changes in personal values took place during the year. There were patterns of personal values that distinguished the members of one occupational, educational, or social group from another. The following strategies to reduce indecision were noted: refusal to consider alternatives; considering one strategy at a time; pursuing all options simultaneously; postponing; altering one's plan; altering occupational requirements; selection by elimination, ; and reformulating alternatives. In Phase II, larger samples of graduate students were administered a personal history questionnaire. Marked differences were found between M.S. candidates and Ph.D. candidates. The need for longitudinal research was noted. Summary of a 359-page report.

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