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Theses Doctoral

How Regulatory Focus Impacts Knowledge Accessibility

Rodriguez, Humberto Abel

The current research applies Regulatory Focus Theory (Higgins, 1997) and a new framework for knowledge accessibility called Relevance of a Representation (Eitam & Higgins, 2010) to examine how the strength of promotion ideal goals (i.e. one's hopes and aspirations) and the strength of prevention ought goals (i.e. duties and responsibilities) can predict the accessibility of one's knowledge representations. It is proposed that strong promotion ideal goals will lead to the activation of knowledge representations presented as the potential for gain/non-gain, whereas strong prevention ought goals will lead to the activation of knowledge representations presented as the potential for non-loss/loss. Three studies examining these proposals are reported. Study 1a measured the chronic strength of participants' promotion ideal goals and prevention ought goals using an established questionnaire. Studies 1b and 2 experimentally manipulated the momentary strength of participants' promotion ideal goals or prevention ought goals by having participants write a brief essay that primed their ideals or their oughts. In all three studies, participants completed a synonym task. Half the synonym problems were presented as the potential to gain points for correct answers and not to gain points for incorrect answers; the other half were presented as the potential not to lose points for correct answers and to lose points for incorrect answers. Following the synonym task, participants completed a lexical decision task measuring accessibility (i.e. were asked to identify as quickly as possible whether a string of letters formed a word or not). Some of the letter strings were the target words from the synonym task and the other strings were not. Response latencies on the lexical decision task were used as a measure of accessibility. As predicted, all three studies found that, for participants with stronger promotion ideal goals, knowledge representations framed as the potential for gain/non-gain were more accessible than those framed as the potential for non-loss/loss. The relation between stronger prevention ought goals and knowledge accessibility was more complex. Study 1b found that both gain/non-gain and non-loss/loss framed synonyms were more accessible when the participants' had stronger prevention ought goals. Study 2, however, found that when participants were given feedback indicating that they were significantly exceeding the synonym task goal, then only non-loss/loss framed synonyms, as predicted, were more accessible. Implications of these findings for memory and learning processes are discussed.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cognitive Studies in Education
Thesis Advisors
Corter, James E.
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 17, 2011
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