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Competence Model

A. The advent of competence approaches is a fairly late development in human services.

1. Until recent years, professionals have been dominated by defect approaches.
a. Adherents of defect approaches assume that pathological, socially deviant behaviors is the most important feature to observe about human functioning.
b. Deviant behavior is attributed to stable states inside the person, the causes of which occurred at some time removed from the present.

2. In contrast, competence models are concerned with a fuller range of human functioning, stressing positive capacities.
a. The ongoing interaction between the individual and the environment is emphasized;
1) The two are regarded as mutually influencing and
2) The relationships between them is considered to be fluid and changeable.
3) The person-environment relationship is described as interdependent or transactional.

3. If the pathology model as manifested in the medical and psychodynamic modes is no longer acceptable, the construct of ‘cure’ must be replaced.

a. For people with problems in living, the context of those problems is successful performance in social interactions e.g., relationships with intimates, authority, peers, as well as the rules and expectations they impose
b. Regardless of the problem in living and its cause, the outcome expectation of both the subject and the helper is social competence

3. Competence is defined as capacity equal to expectations.
a. Expectations vary by social unit, but are usually encapsulated within a cultural system
b. ‘Success’ in meeting expectations can be in terms of both effort and outcome; but equates with acceptance as opposed to confrontation

B. A child must acquire his or her self-identity as a particular manner of being through living in a human community of mutual acceptance.

1. This normally happens as a child grows in close physical interactions with his/her mother as well as other children and adults, in a process through which they naturally [without any intention or effort] develop as a child with normal sensory endowments, body awareness, and self and social consciousness.

2. We are so accustomed to this normal development of children that we do not see the domain of human relations in which it takes place as a natural process, and when it fails we do not know what fails or what to do, and we resort to control.

3. When the child develops ‘emotional problems’ we still tend to remain blind to the fact that such a ‘problem’ does not [cannot] exist within the child, but can exist only as a commentary upon the complex pool of relationships within which the child has been positioned.

4. It is imperative, therefore, that we recognize both sides of the interaction.
a. The indicators in goal statements should reflect:
1) The expectations of the ‘community of interest’ and the changes that are necessary there
2) The changes in the child’s performance.

B. Social competence can best be conceptualized as consisting of several interacting components that operate on one another to produce a kind of self-perpetuating cycle, elements of which may be operating at a very automatic stereotyped level. Social competence is a construct that summarizes this entire chain of events.

C. The components of the model include:

01 Overt behaviors – refer to directly observable behaviors, or what the individual does both verbally and nonverbally in an interpersonal context. Indicators include:
a. Frequency and quality of social interactions. Specifically, the amount of time spent alone, observing peers, and interacting with peers and adults and the interactions are also coded as involving cooperative, affectionate, noncompliant, derogatory, or attacking behavior. Behavioral ratings are significantly related to sociometric ratings.
1) Their spatial proximity to other children;
2) The amount of physical contact with others;
3) The frequency of aggressive episodes; and
4) The children’s location in relation to the rest of the group.

b. Nonverbal behaviors (such as facial expressions, gestures, gaze, spatial behavior, nonverbal aspects of speech, bodily contact and appearance), as well as verbal actions (e.g., instructions, questions, comments, informal chatting, performance utterances, social routines, and the expression of emotional states, attitudes, and latent messages).

02. Covert behaviors
a. (cognitive processes) – refer to the thoughts and images (self-statements, expectancies, appraisals, etc.) that precede, accompany, and follow overt behaviors, as well as the thinking skills and styles of information processing that the individual employs in social situations. Indicators include

1) Internal dialogue that accompanies behavior and reflects the individual’s thoughts and feelings about the situation and/or him or herself
• Negative self-referent ideation – anxious, self deprecating thoughts particularly about performance tasks.
– Taking an examination
– Responding to social challenges
– Tolerating pain
– Performing in athletic competition
• Failure to adopt a problem solving set.
• Explanatory constructs

2) Expectancies with which the individual approaches the situation and his or her appraisal of situational or personal outcomes, as well as the amount and nature of the social information that the individual possesses about the situation. Expectancies represent the individual’s personal prediction (whether from previous experience or the affective meaning that the situation holds for him or her) about what will happen in a given social situation
• Social outcomes represent the wide range of events to which an individual may have some cognitive or behavioral reaction.
• These may include tangible results (e.g., another person’s verbal or nonverbal response), as well as internal events (such as physiological reactions, mood states, etc.).
• It is not the social outcome per se that is important, but the individual’s appraisal of this outcome.
• The model suggests that expectancies and appraisals of social outcomes interact in complex ways with one another and with social behavior.

3) Individual’s ability to create and maintain positive and supportive social environments. Social competence must include not only the individual’s cognitive or behavioral response to a social situation, but his or her active engendering of a changing social environment.

4) Social cognition – the intuitive or logical representation of others, that is, how the individual characterizes others and makes inferences about their covert inner psychological experience

5) Social problem solving thinking
• Sensitivity to interpersonal problem situations;
• Generation of alternative solutions to a problem situation;
• Means-ends thinking (the ability to plan, step-by-step, toward attainment of an intra- or interpersonal goal);
• The tendency to weigh consequences in terms of their Probable effectiveness and social acceptability; and
• The ability to perceive cause-and-effect relations in interpersonal events.

6) Role-taking skills – the ability to take the perspective of another person
• Person perception (the characterization of what an individual is like),
• Empathy (the ability to perceive and feel another’s affective state), and
• Referential communication, (the ability to effectively communicate with another person).

7) Information processing styles – Chunking of information – the way information is chunked has important effects on the individual’s proficiency in the performance of an act.
• Level of organization and the use of inferences in their descriptions of others.
• It is not the ability to chunk per se that is important for effective behavior, but the fit between the task and the information- processing strategy employed.

8) Automaticity – the degree to which a behavior will be enacted ‘mindlessly’ or without intentional cognitive activity.
• Conscious, controlled process that produces slow but accurate performance,
• Automatic process that allows the rapid execution of highly stereotyped response sequences without the necessity of conscious control
• Individual’s ability, not only to recognize the information-processing demands of the situation, but also to adjust appropriately between automatic and controlled modes of operating.
b. Meaning system (cognitive structures)
1) Refers in the present theory of meaning which leads to an inner logic that provides motivation and direction for both thought and behavior
• Self
• Other
• Future prospects in general and specific social settings
– The nature and number of an individual’s concerns about social situations should be predictive of the magnitude of anxiety in social situations, and thus the potential for distortion of social information and/or interference with socially competent behavior.
– The nature of an individual’s concerns should also be predictive of the generality of social anxiety across situations (parties, informal small gatherings, interviews, dates, casual conversations, etc.) and the particular situations in which it might occur.

03. Affective system
Research posits two fundamental “minds” or major cognition centers which are referred to as the cognitive mind and the emotional mind. The emotional mind is the seat of our basic emotions (such as fear, anger, pain, and joy) and generates the fundamentally controlling motivations of an organism. The cognitive mind is a superb self-organizing computation device capable of relatively quick and brilliant situation assessments. However, in itself it primarily is responsible for assessing and generating alternatives. It is primarily the emotional mind that sets the criteria upon which alternatives are actually chosen.

a. The major role of the emotional mind is to provide motivation and direction. It seems that pretty much most of our drive to achieve a resolution and to come to a decision are controlled by our emotional mind.

b. It seems that our basic physical body sensations and motor controls are also primarily under the control or our emotional mind.

c. It is believed that a fundamental way the cognitive mind interacts with the emotional one is through structures in working memory.

d. Usually this system functions quite well with the emotional centers providing the criteria on which to resolve a problem, the cognitive mind generating alternatives, and then a decision being taken based upon which alternatives seem best to satisfy the criteria. There are of course plenty of times when the entire system does not function at all well.

e. The emotional mind is the source of distress patterns. Distress patterns are painful feelings associated with trigger experiences and which are encoded within our emotional mind. You may have absolutely no reality-based reason to fear the given individual and yet you may well find yourself nervous and subliminally frightened; or you may find yourself being unconsciously hostile. This irrational response to the current reality is indicative that a distress pattern is operating and clouding normal cognition.

f. Distress patterns occur as a result of painful unprocessed experiences that become locked in the emotional mind.

g. Whenever external or internal processing arises that seems associated with the distress, the distress pattern is restimulated and can severely interfere with the rest of cognition (e.g., someone who reminds you of the bully leaves you reacting as much or more to the bully rather than the real person). This mechanism may be nothing more than simple cognitive interference but it has profound significance for how our minds actually work. As such, it can be a very powerful driving force on cognition and the cognitive mind.

h. Distress patterns affect virtually all aspects of our lives and as such should have a fundamental consideration in any educational model. In fact, boredom with schooling is a distress many children and adults suffer from their long boring hours in the classroom during childhood. Merely walking into a classroom or thinking about doing so can easily kick off the distress in many people and cause them to mentally “shutdown”.

j. Indicators of emotional competence include:

a. The accurate appraisal and expression of emotion in self and others
1) Identify and label emotions: must be able to understand feelings and use words to describe them.
2) Must be able to identify an explanatory style
3) Must be able to express emotions effectively [the meaning of communication is the response it evokes]

b. The adaptive regulation of emotions in self and others
1) Emotional control: must be able to mediate impulsive responses to strong emotions

c. The utilization of emotions to plan, create and motivate action.
1) Must be able to place an affirmative value on self; either because of demonstrated competence and other response, realistic acceptance of self as becoming, or acceptance of the self as you are
2) Must be able to use emotional content to motivate to reach personal goals