Theses Doctoral

Human Engagement and the Experience of Value

Sehnert, Steen Cameron

Research on value has focused on the valence of stimuli (e.g. Thorndike, 1911) or on the way an actor engages with those stimuli (e.g. Kierkegaard, 1843). We use an approach to the study of value that understands value as an interaction between the actor and a value target, between the valence of a stimulus or activity, and a person's strength of engagement with that value target.

In Experiment 1, we test the central prediction of Regulatory Engagement Theory (RET) (Higgins, 2006), that increased strength of engagement, as manipulated by inducing a situation of scarcity, intensifies the value experience associated with tasting a disliked yogurt, causing participants to feel more intensely negative about the yogurt when they perceive it as scarce.

In Experiment 2, we extend this finding by testing whether manipulating the scarcity of one array of products at time 1 can create a psychological state that can transfer to intensify the value of an unrelated product presented later in the experiment.

In Experiments 3 and 4 we work toward developing a measure of engagement as sustained attention in order to begin to establish strength of engagement as a mechanism for these effects. In these studies, we use Regulatory Fit (Higgins, 2000) to create conditions of strong and weak engagement within participants, and we measure engagement by recording the extent to which participants attend to a focal task at the expense of irrelevant distracting information presented during that task.

By conceptualizing value as a motivational force experience, using RET to make new predictions about this experience, and developing a measure to test the mechanism itself, we hope this work contributes to the development of a new way of understanding value.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Higgins, Edward Tory
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 22, 2011