Date of Graduation

8-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Scott Eidelman

Committee Member

Denise Beike

Second Committee Member

David Schroeder

Keywords

Psychology, Effort, Goals, Motivation, Performance, Regulatory focus

Abstract

Regulatory focus theory describes two motivational strategies--promotion and prevention focus--that may be employed during goal directed action. Although a theory of motivation, there is no research examining differences in effort between promotion and prevention focus. Two studies are presented which test the hypothesis that goals pursued with a prevention focus, with its emphasis on duties, responsibilities, and avoidance of negative outcomes, will induce more effort than goals pursued with a promotion focus, which emphasizes hopes, ideals, and achieving positive outcomes. In addition, several potential mediators and moderators of this effect were examined. In Study 1, students who completed an essay designed to induce a prevention focus indicated that they planned to put marginally more effort into preparing for an upcoming exam than students who completed an essay to induce a promotion focus. In Study 2, participants worked on anagrams with either a prevention-focused incentive structure (i.e., losing or not losing money) or a promotion-focused incentive structure (i.e., gaining or not gaining money), and time spent working on the anagrams served as a measure of effort. There was no effect of regulatory focus in this study; however, when participants who indicated being unsuccessful in past academic situations were excluded from analyses, the predicted difference between conditions emerged. The potential role of regulatory fit--the match between one's dispositional and situational regulatory focus--was examined in both studies, and ruled out as an alternative explanation. Collectively, these studies provide the first evidence, albeit modest, of a difference between promotion and prevention focus in the amount of effort people put forth during goal pursuit, and they serve as a foundation for additional research into differences in motivational strength between promotion and prevention focus.

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