Regulatory Focus and Interdependent Economic Decision-Making
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Forthcoming
Posted: 20 Nov 2012
Date Written: 2012
Traditional theories of self-interest cannot predict when individuals pursue relative and absolute economic outcomes in interdependent decision-making, but we argue that regulatory focus (Higgins, 1997) can. We propose that a concern with security (prevention focus) motivates concerns with social status, leading to the regulation of relative economic outcomes, but a concern with growth (promotion focus) motivates the maximization of opportunities, leading to a focus on absolute outcomes. Two studies supported our predictions; regardless of prosocial or proself motivations, a promotion focus yielded greater concern with absolute outcomes, but a prevention focus yielded greater concern with relative outcomes. Also, Study 3 revealed that a prevention focus led to a greater rejection of a negative relative but positive absolute outcome in an ultimatum game because of concerns with status. This research reveals that apparently opposing orientations to interdependence – equality and relative gain – serve the same self-regulatory purpose: the establishment of security.
Keywords: regulatory focus, economic outcomes, relative value, absolute value, interdependence, social orientations
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