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The Concept of Situations



The concept of situations has a long past, but the conceptualization of situations only has a short history. This article provides a survey of the concept of situations. Based upon Milgram’s [Human Relations 18 (1965), 57] vision toward ‘a compelling theory of situations,’ the authors examine the concept of situations in three specific literatures: definitions of situations, taxonomies of situations, and interrelationships among persons, situations, and behaviors. To further integrate the literature, the authors propose that the essence of a situation is its affordance of human goals, and that situations are largely characterized by two specific principles of goal processes (what happened, is happening, or might happen to people’s goals) and goal contents (the specific goals afforded in the situation).