Internalization

This article is a commentary or review of another article in the same issue, by Deci & Ryan. Deci & Ryan make an argument about autonomy, stating that in addition to self-determination and freedom, autonomy involves integration within the self. They say that internalization (becoming?) involves giving child:

  1. a rationale for why a value is important
  2. a chance to think about the rationale for a while, and
  3. a chance to see that there are links from this to other values that the child already holds

Taken together, these elements indicate that the “key element is the discovery … of links to other values that are already in place within the self….  [F]or goals and values to be internalized, their attainment must be enhancing congruence within the self” (Carver & Scheier, 2011, p. 287, 289).

This process of internalization is very cerebral or cognitive.  Just yesterday Dr. Graham and I talked about whether one becomes by simply seeing a model, or whether interacting with the model was necessary.  We talked about the studies which showed that babies acquire language through face-time with a real human rather than watching that same human on a video. This suggests that infants at least need the interaction with, not simply the viewing of a human.

When I mentioned that to my husband last night, he did have a contradictory study.  He told me that Albert Bandura had spoken at IU when Taylor was in grad school there.  Bandura told of a project in Africa which created a TV show to improve sexual health.  One character had safe sexual behavior, one was flagrantly unsafe, and one mixed behaviors of sexual safety and disregard.  After time, sexual behaviors did begin to change, with safer behaviors being practiced.  Does this indicate that adolescents and adults are better able to become through seeing a human model, not necessarily interacting with a human?

In any case, I do wonder about the outlined process of internalization (by Deci & Rice, summarized by Carver & Scheier).  Is this all that is required for a value to become internalized?  Rationale/reason, reflection, and then connection to self?  This is very focused on the individual.  What of the importance of a model whose behavior displays the value?

Deci & Rice argue that in addition to autonomy, there are two other fundamental human needs: relatedness and competence. But Carter & Scheier are not certain that these three are the “fundamental” needs, or even that competence can stand on its own: “competence is desirable only if it pertains to an activity that authentically reflects some value of the true self, and is being engaged in freely rather than being controlled….  What’s beneficial is behavior that simultaneously reflects competence & self-determination” (Carter & Scheier, 2011, p. 286).

I have mixed feelings about the emphasis on self-determination.     On the one hand, it seems fundamental to agency, a concept I do think is vital.  On the other, the term “self-determination” sounds overly individualistic to my ears.  I guess that is why I did like Deci & Rice’s inclusion of “relatedness,” which seems to suggest (though I am only guessing at this second-hand, having not yet read their article) connection to and concern about others.  Though there are many different variations on the theme, I do like what has grown out of Vygotsky’s conceptualization of learning as a social process.  Dr. Graham did link the ideas of this article to learning from others.  Before a value is internalized, a child may do something primarily to please his or her mother.  But over time, as the child develops competence in the activity (piano playing, for instance), s/he begins to do the activity for more intrinsic reasons.  The value has been internalized, but the process of internalization began because of relatedness and social connections.

References

Carver, C. S. & Scheier, M. F.  (2011). Autonomy and self-regulation. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4): 284-291.

Park, A. (2007). Baby Einsteins: Not So Smart After All. Time Magazine. Retrieved May 21, 2011 from http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1650352,00.html.

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