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Regulatory Focus as a Determinant of Feelings of Ambivalence and Ambivalence Reduction


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Principal Investigator(s):

Kenneth G. DeMarree
University at Buffalo
Email: kgdemarr@buffalo.edu
Home page: http://psychology.buffalo.edu/about-us/faculty/demarree/

S. Christian Wheeler
Stanford University
Email: christian.wheeler@stanford.edu
Home page: http://faculty-gsb.stanford.edu/wheeler/index.html

Sample size: 242
Field Period: 11/19/2008-12/29/2008

 

Abstract:

People frequently experience evaluative conflict, or the simultaneous presence of positive and negative reactions towards the same object. Feelings of ambivalence (i.e., felt conflict) stem from sources other than the actual presence of positive and negative beliefs about an object. Recently, our research has demonstrated that discrepancies between the actual attitude a person possess and the attitude they'd ideally like to possess (ideal attitudes) or the attitude they feel they should possess (ought attitudes) are an independent predictor of felt conflict. Further, people report being motivated to reduce this conflict. The present research sought to investigate whether the role of ideal and ought attitudes we restricted to congruent regulatory mindset – specifically promotion and prevention mindsets, respectively. After assessing actual, ideal, and ought attitudes towards the death penalty and the economic bailout, participants were primed with either a promotion or a prevention mindset (by writing about hopes and aspirations or duties and obligations). Participants then completed measures of felt ambivalence and expressed their interest in newspaper headlines that were clearly in favor or in opposition to the two target issues. For the issue of the death penalty, the regulatory focus prime interacted with the valence of participants' ideal (p < .05) and ought (p = .10) attitudes to predict interest in desired-attitude congruent articles. No such effect was found for the other issue (economic bailout). Actual-desired attitude discrepancies predicted felt ambivalence; however, this relationship was not moderated by the regulatory focus prime for these issues.

Hypotheses:

Actual-ideal and actual-ought attitude discrepancies will predict feelings of ambivalence when participants are in a congruent regulatory mindset (i.e., promotion and prevention, respectively).
Ideal and ought attitudes will predict interest in desired-attitude congruent information, over and above actual attitudes, when participants are in a congruent regulatory mindset.

Experimental Manipulation:

Promotion versus prevention essay prime

Key Dependent Variables:

Subjective ambivalence
Interested in positive and negative articles relating to the target issues

Summary of Findings:

For the issue of the death penalty, the prime interacted with the valence of participants ideal (p < .05) and ought (p = .10) attitudes to predict interest in desired-attitude congruent articles. No such effect was found for the other issue (economic bailout).
Although actual-desired attitude discrepancies predicted felt ambivalence, this relationship was not moderated by the regulatory focus prime for these issues.


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