Eldrick Tont Woods, commonly known as Tiger Woods, is an American professional golfer born in December 30, 1975. Currently, Tiger Woods is one of the most successful golfers in history with a collection of trophies to his name. The determination to excel in golf makes Woods a perfectionist. Since his adolescent days, Woods sets very high standards for himself and goes to great lengths to surpass those standards. As a result, Neal Miller’s social cognitive theory would be the most appropriate for analyzing Wood’s perfectionist behavior.
According to Miller’s social cognitive theory, there are four key areas when learning new behavior. This include: cues, drives, responses and rewards. Miller further argues that when individuals are motivated to learn a new behavior, they are likely to do so through clear observations. After imitating the actions observed, the individuals then consolidate whatever they learn through positive reinforcement when rewarded.
The link between Wood’s perfectionist behavior and social cognitive theory comes in the sense that he has set his goal to become the greatest golfer in history and worked consistently to achieve that goal. This goal also motivates Woods to relentlessly pursue specific actions in the hope of breaking the records set by other golfers such as Jack Nicklaus. For example, due to the internalized high personal standards, Tiger Woods practices golf each day religiously.
However, it is important to note that the high standards Tiger Woods sets for himself are not limited to golf only. For instance, when joining college, Tiger focused on three institutions with a history of academic rigor and success at golf. He later joined Stanford because he wanted to excel academically as well as in sports.
The perfectionist behavior might partly have been influenced by his father, Earl Woods. Tiger’s father was a military soldier and he brought him up in a militaristic manner. The elder Woods groomed Tiger from a young age and inculcated in him the desire to succeed. With the perfection required by his father, Tiger had enormous pressure to succeed. Therefore, it is little wonder that Tiger went on to break 80 at the age of eight and won the World Junior Championships six times ( four of those consecutively).
Another aspect of the social cognitive theory that is relevant to the case of Tiger Woods is the way evaluative standards trigger emotional outpour. According to the theory, individuals react with pride when they achieve their standards. However, they also react with dissatisfaction when they fail to meet those standards. When Tiger Woods won the U.S Junior Amateur, he was so overcome by the victory to the extent that tears streamed down his face. Indeed, it was a proud moment for him because he was on the right path towards attaining his goal. Winning the trophy was so dear to him that he was overcome by emotional grief.
Wood’s perfectionist behavior also extends beyond professional golf. As a practicing Buddhist, Tiger acknowledges the role religion plays in his life. For instance, following his admission to infidelity, Tiger attributed his marital woes to his loosing track of religious teachings. He promised to work on his personality flaws and exercise restraint as taught in Buddhism. The desire to follow religious teachings as a map for his life further proves that Tiger strives to be a perfectionist in all his undertakings.
The social cognitive theory gives several key pointers to Tiger Wood’s perfectionist behavior. The desire to become the greatest golfer in history and the drive to succeed in other spheres of life inform Tiger’s perfectionist behavior. Positive reinforcement brought about by rewards pushes Tiger to achieve more and stop at nothing short of the greatest golfer in history.
Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1999). Social cognitive theory of gender development and
differentiation. Psychology Review , 106, 676-713.
Kennedy, A. (2013, May 24). Tiger Woods – can personality explain his behaviour?
Retrieved October 29, 2013, from Thesportinmind.com: