Choosing situations for a purpose


  • Angela Gorta

    Corresponding author
    1. Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
    • Senior Research Officer, N.S.W. Department of Corrective Services, G.P.O. Box 31, Sydney, N.S.W. 2001 Australia
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Within the literature, in theoretical discussions individuals are conceptualized as agents, capable of choosing and planning their actions. Situations are open to definition and may be construed differently by different individuals. On the other hand, the majority of studies of situations treat them as concrete givens with specific properties merely waiting to be discovered. The present paper attempts to explore the possibility of empirically treating individuals as agents, capable of choosing and planning their actions and of treating situations as being open to definition. It focuses on the choice of settings to fulfil different goals and on aspects of the setting considered salient once the goal is specified.

The two studies described in this paper have illustrated that there is some consensus in the way people choose settings for different goals and that different uses of the setting lead to different aspects of the setting being considered salient. The high consensus with which two different groups of subjects, performing slightly different tasks, associated goals and settings suggests that there is some shared, at least subcultural, knowledge concerning the appropriate places in which to achieve specific goals. Individuals enter settings for specific purposes. Individuals entering a particular setting for different purposes tend to report using the setting in different ways. Both the goal and the particular setting affect the aspects of the setting considered relevant to the goal; neither the goal nor the setting alone is sufficient.