Career Decision-Making within the College Social Microcosm: Social Value Determinants, Self-Enhancement Bias, and Psychological Needs

Pesch, Kathryn
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Organizational Unit
Journal Issue

Social Cognitive Career Theory posits a career decision-making model conceptualized within the person’s larger social context, defined by supports and barriers (Lent et al., 2000). The present investigation combined social and vocational psychology in order to examine the college social microcosm and its relations to career decision-making. Study 1 (N = 433) presented participants with two fictional student vignettes to examine whether the college social microcosm is comprised of interpersonal social phenomena found in other sociocultural settings, such as stereotypes and biases. Results revealed that a student certain about his/her academic major was judged significantly more positively than a student who was uncertain. The medium effect of this difference (d = 0.71) provides strong evidence that negative social bias is occurring in the college environment. Unexpectedly, the certain student was also judged more negatively. This effect was driven by participants high in subjective career distress; they rated the certain student more negatively than the uncertain student. Self-enhancement motives may have contributed to these results. Study 2 compared effects of two experimental manipulations of social exclusion (career-based, n = 46; personal, n = 46) to career-based inclusion (n = 56) on Williams’ (2009) basic psychological needs (belonging, sense of control, state-self-esteem, and meaning in life) and subsequent effects on career decision-making self-efficacy and vocational outcome expectations, per Social Cognitive Career Theory (Lent, Brown, & Hackett, 2000). Both types of exclusion led to significantly lower levels of belonging, sense of control, state self-esteem, and meaning in life compared to career-based inclusion. Belonging, sense of control, and meaning in life made significant contributions to both vocational variables; however, exclusion/inclusion status did not significantly influence the vocational variables. There were no differences between type of social exclusion. Conclusions and implications are discussed.

Career decision, College students, Psychological needs, Social exclusion, Social value, Stereotypes