Unifying Vocational Psychology’s Trait and Social–Cognitive Approaches Through the Cognitive-Affective Personality System

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Abstract

Vocational psychology is divided between two conflicting paradigms: Trait-based, exemplified by Holland’s (1997) theory, and social–cognitive, exemplified by Social-Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT). Scientifically, this division is problematic, as scientific truth is partially determined by consensus among experts (Kuhn, 1970). We propose that the trait-based and social–cognitive perspectives can be integrated—not by subsuming SCCT into Holland’s (1997) model as suggested by Armstrong and Vogel (2009, 2010) but by reinterpreting traits in terms of social–cognitive units. SCCT lacks the scope and explanatory power to accomplish this task partially because, as we detail, the theory relies on many trait constructs itself. To accomplish our integration, we introduce an influential theory from the personality literature: The Cognitive-Affective Personality System (CAPS; Mischel & Shoda, 1995). We describe CAPS and highlight its parallels with SCCT. We then explain how trait-based accounts of vocational interests and cognitive abilities can be translated into CAPS units. We conclude by describing how trait constructs can still be viable within the CAPS framework and by calling for empirical research to put our propositions to the test.

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