Situational adaptiveness of control orientation mediates relation between fixed-world view and youth well-being in three cultures

Mayer, Boris; Wang, Yan Z. (1 April 2016). Situational adaptiveness of control orientation mediates relation between fixed-world view and youth well-being in three cultures (Unpublished). In: 2016 Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA). Baltimore, MD. 31.03-02.04.2016.

When proposing primary control (changing the world to fit self)/secondary control (changing self to fit the world) theory, Weisz et al. (1984) argued for the importance of the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can” (p. 967), and the wisdom to choose the right control strategy that fits the context. Although the dual processes of control theory generated hundreds of empirical studies, most of them focused on the dichotomy of PC and SC, with none of these tapped into the critical concept: individuals’ ability to know when to use what. This project addressed this issue by using scenario questions to study the impact of situationally adaptive control strategies on youth well-being. To understand the antecedents of youths’ preference for PC or SC, we also connected PCSC theory with Dweck’s implicit theory about the changeability of the world. We hypothesized that youths’ belief about the world’s changeability impacts how difficult it was for them to choose situationally adaptive control orientation, which then impacts their well-being. This study included adolescents and emerging adults between the ages of 18 and 28 years (Mean = 20.87 years) from the US (n = 98), China (n = 100), and Switzerland (n = 103). Participants answered a questionnaire including a measure of implicit theories about the fixedness of the external world, a scenario-based measure of control orientation, and several measures of well-being. Preliminary analyses of the scenario-based control orientation measures showed striking cross-cultural similarity of preferred control responses: while for three of the six scenarios primary control was the predominately chosen control response in all cultures, for the other three scenarios secondary control was the predominately chosen response. This suggested that youths across cultures are aware that some situations call for primary control, while others demand secondary control. We considered the control strategy winning the majority of the votes to be the strategy that is situationally adaptive. The results of a multi-group structural equation mediation model with the extent of belief in a fixed world as independent variable, the difficulties of carrying out the respective adaptive versus non-adaptive control responses as two mediating variables and the latent well-being variable as dependent variable showed a cross-culturally similar pattern of effects: a belief in a fixed world was significantly related to higher difficulties in carrying out the normative as well as the non-normative control response, but only the difficulty of carrying out the normative control response (be it primary control in situations where primary control is normative or secondary control in situations where secondary control is normative) was significantly related to a lower reported well-being (while the difficulty of carrying out the non-normative response was unrelated to well-being). While previous research focused on cross-cultural differences on the choice of PC or SC, this study shed light on the universal necessity of applying the right kind of control to fit the situation.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Cognitive Psychology, Perception and Methodology

UniBE Contributor:

Mayer, Boris


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology


[62] Jacobs Foundation




Boris Mayer

Date Deposited:

30 Mar 2016 11:17

Last Modified:

30 Mar 2016 11:17


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