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Action versus state orientation

Dr. Simon Moss

Overview

Some individuals can improve their emotions, overriding anxiety or agitation, almost unconsciously (for a description of a mechanism, see Intuitive affect regulation). This capacity coincides with a concept called action orientation.

Action orientation is, in essence, the capacity to regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors to fulfill the intentions that individuals form. State orientation refers to the inability to regulate these emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. That is, these individuals are unable to modify their state--their anxiety, dejection, confusion, and uncertainty, for example (Kuhl, 1981, 1994b, 2000).

Dimensions

Most researchers distinguish two facets of action and state orientation: failure related and decision related (Kuhl, 1994b). Failure related action orientation refers to the capacity to curb the negative affect that is evoked-anxiety, agitation, and irritation, for instance-after failures or threats. Threats, in this context, are events that could damage or dent the self concept of individuals, and include criticisms, rejections, exclusion, and dangers.

Individuals who exhibit this form of action orientation can, somewhat effortlessly and immediately, disengage from this sense of threat, and hence this tendency is sometimes called disengagement. In contrast, individuals who do not exhibit this form of action orientation, but instead report failure related state orientation, feel preoccupied with the impending threats, and this tendency is thus sometimes called preoccupation.

Decision related action orientation relates to the ability to foster the positive affect that is needed-the requisite confidence, enthusiasm, and excitement-to execute their intentions despite challenging demands. These demands include unforeseen obstacles, conflicting goals, and difficult tasks-and they hinder the confidence and thus positive affect of individuals.

Individuals who report this form of action orientation can elevate their positive affect or confidence and hence initiate or execute their intentions despite these demands. This capacity, therefore, is sometimes designated as initiative. Individuals who experience a state orientation in this context hesitate unduly before executing their intentions, and this tendency is thus called hesitation.

Although these two dimensions are often distinguished, research indicates that preoccupation and hesitation are, indeed, either moderately or highly correlated. Some studies report correlations that approximate about .3 (e.g., Allemand, Job, Christen, & Keller, 2008), whereas other studies report higher correlations. Some researchers even combine these dimensions to form a single scale (e.g., Jostmann, Koole, van der Wulp, & Fockenberg, 2005).

Mechanisms that curb negative affect

Research has uncovered some of the mechanisms that individuals who report disengagement-or failure-related action orientation-invoke to change their affective states. Specifically, according to the concept of intuitive affect regulation (see Koole & Coenen, 2007), these individuals demonstrate two qualities.

First, they can more readily access their sense of self in response to threat. That is, they can activate their personal values, priorities, inclinations, and perceptions of themselves. This capacity to access their sense of self might arise because, during childhood, they were often granted a sense of choice in stressful or threatening contexts. Over time, they associate this sense of choice-and hence their personal values and inclinations-with threatening conditions

Second, they associate this sense of self with feelings of autonomy or agency. Accordingly, in these individuals, a threat activates self representations, which in turn amplify feelings of autonomy and agency, curbing negative affective states.

For example, Kazen, Baumann, and Kuhl (2005) showed that action oriented individuals were more likely than state orientated individuals to experience a sense of national pride after they experienced a sense of threat-in this instance, an image of their death. In other words, they can more readily invoke the defense mechanisms, characterized by terror management theory, that override the existential anxiety that an awareness of mortality can evoke.

Interestingly, this finding was discovered in Germany, a nation in which national pride is often derided. Nevertheless, in response to threat, action orientated individuals can mitigate the negative affective states they associate with national pride.

Automaticity

Some studies indicate that disengagement might be partly, or even wholly, automatic. For example, in a study conducted by Jostmann, Koole, van der Wulp, and Fockenberg (2006), a series of subliminal faces were presented to participants. Some of these faces were angry rather than happy.

Individuals who reported a state orientation showed negative affect in response to these subliminal angry faces, as manifested by an implicit measure of mood. In contrast, individuals who reported an action orientation did not show an escalation in negative affect in response to these subliminal angry faces. These findings indicate that individuals who report an action orientation can override negative affective states, even when oblivious to the source of any mood changes.

Mechanisms that foster positive affect

Degenerate intentions

Some of the mechanisms that underpin hesitation-that is, decision-related action orientation-is assumed to revolve around impoverished intentions (Kuhl, 1994a& Kuhl & Goschke, 1994& Kuhl, & Helle, 1994). According to this degenerated intention hypothesis, individuals with a state orientation formulate deficient intentions.

Specifically, to form an intention, individuals need to be aware of the immediate context, such as "I have not acquired knowledge in accounting" and their future goals, such as "I would like to acquire knowledge in accounting". In addition, they need to identify the activities that could translate this immediate context to these future goals, such as the individuals they need to contact, the information they need to accrue, and so forth. Finally, they need to recognize the conditions in which these activities should be implemented. Perhaps, they cannot initiate this process until they have acquired enough money. These intentions are activated representations in long term memory, which guide behavior when the requisite conditions surface.

According to Kuhl and Goschke (1994), in some individuals, these criteria are not fulfilled. For example, they might disregard their future goals, because someone else-an authority figure-had demanded they undertake these activities. Alternatively, they might not recognize suitable conditions to initiate this sequence of activities, because they proceed only when they feel that success is inevitable.

Accordingly, they do not feel certain as to which intentions to pursue. If they are not certain of their immediate context, they cannot readily evaluate which intention is most plausible. If they are not certain of their goals, they cannot determine which intention is most satisfying. If they have not established the conditions that promote success, they cannot determine which of their intentions are most fitting to the situation. Hence, they never feel committed towards a specific sequence of actions, which promotes uncertainty, curbs their confidence, hinders their enthusiasm, and promotes dejection (Kammer, 1994).

In contrast, if individuals experience a sense of certainty, they imagine their future lives as though the intention has been fulfilled. They feel as though they have fulfilled their aspirations, and this feeling promotes cheerfulness rather than dejection, according to self discrepancy theory (Higgins, 1987).

Antecedents to degenerate intentions

Several factors might underpin the inability to form suitable intentions. The main factor relates to the imposition of duties and obligations. That is, individuals with a state orientation are often obliged to enact behaviors that do not necessarily align with their preferences (Stiensmeier-Pelster & Schurmann, 1994).

Several problems ensue when individuals feel obliged to enact these behaviors. First, when individuals pursue their own goals, they experience a profound understanding of the conditions under which these objectives should be pursued. They know, for example, they do not need to pursue the goal of forming friendships when they visit a kindergarten. When duties and responsibilities are imposed, the precise conditions under which these obligations should be fulfilled are often not communicated. Individuals thus feel the need to pursue these obligations, even when they are not viable (Kuhl, 1994a), and these unfulfilled duties induce agitation (Higgins, 1987).

Consistent with this depiction, Kuhl and Kazen (1994) showed that state oriented individuals can readily remember the activities that someone else would like them to complete. They do not, however, as readily remember the goals they previously specified they yearned to realize in the future.

Third, because obligations are often imposed, not chosen, individuals who report a state orientation have not developed the capacity to reject demands or eradicate intentions that are implausible (Kuhl & Helle, 1994). Unrealistic intentions remain active, which inhibits their capacity to decide which plans to execute. In contrast, individuals with an action orientation disregard demands that are no longer viable. For example, after individuals who report an action orientation imagine a demanding person, their capacity to remember a sequence of tasks improves (Jostmann & Koole, 2006). That is, when they feel the context is demanding, they eradicate many of their previous intentions (see also Walschburger, 1994). More memory is thus available to remember other sequences of actions.

Consistent with this proposition, in several studies, reported by Kuhl and Goschke (1994), participants were instructed that a task they intended to perform would need to be deferred to a later time. RT to words that were related to this task increased in participants who reported an action orientation. That is, these participants discarded the intention to perform this task. When the accessibility of this intention diminished, RT to corresponding words increased.

This pattern was not observed in individuals with a state orientation, however. RT remained low even when the task was delayed. This pattern of observations applies to tasks that demand declarative memory (Kuhl & Goschke, 1994).

Third, individuals often experience a conflict between their preferences and their responsibilities-a conflict that is difficult to resolve. Individuals, therefore, often direct their attention to potential conflicts, which in turn provokes negative affective states. To resolve these conflicts, they seek clarity and information. Hence, they often seek information to a profound, unsustainable extent, striving to curb ambiguity (Stiensmeier-Pelster & Schurmann, 1994). Because they incessantly accumulate additional information, they seldom commit to particular intentions. The benefits of such commitment-that is, the excitement that arises when individuals envisage their future life-are not exploited.

Consequences of action orientation

Motivation and performance

Individuals who exhibit a state orientation, particularly hesitation, cannot execute difficult intentions. That is, they cannot readily initiate actions that override their inclinations-inclinations that are induced by the environment.

Accordingly, these individuals can readily initiate intentions that are, in essence, automatic-prompted by cues in the environment. These individuals, however, cannot initiate intentions that are not automatic, especially when they experience low positive affect or demanding conditions. This finding implies that hesitation corresponds to the inability to foster the positive affect that is needed to initiate intentions (Kazen, Kaschel, & Kuhl, 2008).

Many adverse consequences arise because of this inability to regulate the inclinations that are prompted by cues in the environment. First, in a sporting context, these individuals are unable to withhold some of their energy throughout the contest. Instead, they often invoke all the energy at the beginning of, for example, a long race (see Beckmann & Kazen, 1994).

Second, because of this reliance on external cues, rather than self regulation, individuals who report a state orientation often procrastinate (Beswick & Mann, 1994). That is, they often defer their work until a deadline approaches (Sokolowski, 1994). In addition, they often shift their attention to information they have already considered before to clarify their decisions (Beswick & Mann, 1994).

Third, without such self regulation, prospective memory is often impaired in individuals with a state orientation, unless observable cues are presented (Kuhl & Goschke, 1994). Likewise, action slips are more prevalent, because they cannot execute the intentions to override unsuitable habits (Kuhl & Goschke, 1994).

Job searches

Action orientation also enables individuals to devote more effort into job searches. That is, as Wanberg, Zhu, and Van Hooft (2010) proposed, and then validated, when individuals seek jobs, they often feel their progress has been stifled. Their confidence to secure a job and their mood tend to deteriorate. If individuals report a state orientation, this decline in confidence and mood one day tends to curb the effort they devote to seeking jobs the next day. Conversely, if individuals report an action orientation, this decline in confidence and mood one day tends to enhance the effort they devote to seeking jobs the next day. That is, these individuals are especially inclined to mobilize effort and confidence after their mood has been dented.

Specifically, in one study, Wanberg, Zhu, and Van Hooft (2010), participants completed a survey every week day across three weeks. All of these participants were seeking jobs over the internet. The questionnaire assessed the extent to which they felt they progressed on their job, with questions like "Things did not go well with my job search today", as well as time spent on the search. Furthermore, decision-related action orientation, or initiative versus disengagement, was assessed. Finally, affect and confidence were also evaluated. Progress on one day was positively associated with positive affect the same day. Furthermore, this positive affect on one day was positively associated with time and effort the next day in people who reported initiative and negatively associated with time and effort the next day in people who reported disengagement.

Decision making

Individuals with a state orientation are less governed by personal values and more swayed by other cues, such as the attitudes of other significant figures (see Koole & Coenen, 2007). Hence, relative to individuals with an action orientation, individuals with a state orientation tend to modify their choices in response to additional, but inessential information (Jungermann, Pfister, & May, 1994).

Dibbelt and Kuhl (1994) highlight the deficits in decision making that individuals with a state, rather than action, orientation exhibit. First, individuals with a state orientation often consider more of the information or cues that are available to decide which of several alternatives to pursue.

Hesitation, in particular, increases the likelihood that many implausible intentions might be activated--intentions that individuals with an action orientation have discarded. That is, individuals who report hesitation often pursue goals and intentions that are implausible in the immediate context. As a consequence, a broader array of cues might be germane to these intentions.

Second, individuals with a state orientation might apply more complex rules--additive utility models, for example--rather than simpler algorithms to minimize errors. Preoccupation, for example, often evolves because duties and responsibilities are imposed. These individuals cannot fulfill all these duties, which culminates in unanticipated punishments, provoking negative affect. Hence, individuals strive to minimize shortfalls and deviations from unrealistic standards, even when time pressures preclude such comprehensive analyses.

Stiensmeier-Pelster (1994), however, showed that individuals with an action orientation will consider decisions more comprehensively if the judgment or choice is especially important. Accordingly, individuals with an action orientation seem to show more flexibility with the approaches they invoke, to accommodate the unique objectives and constraints of any context.

Third, individuals with a state orientation often perseverate unnecessarily. That is, because goals and duties are often imposed, they can rely on their own intuition or sense as to when they should abandon these evauations. They can, thus, access a "self control check".

Fourth, individuals with an action orientation often overrate the merits of any alternatives they chose. That is, after they select one alternative, they focus their attention on the benefits of this option and overlook the complications (see also Beckmann & Kuhl, 1984). This tendency, called spreading of alternatives, ensures they remain committed to their decisions--unless crucial and unexpected information is presented.

Wellbeing

State orientation, by definition, reflects an inability to regulate emotions effectively. Accordingly, a state orientation will tend to be inversely associated with indices of wellbeing. For example, state orientation coincides with anxiety that precedes achievement tasks in school settings (e.g., Bossong, 1994). Furthermore, several psychological disorders, such as phobias (e.g., Hautzinger, 1994), are more prevalent in individuals who report a state orientation. In addition, state orientation is inversely related to life dissatisfaction (Keller, Straub, & Wolfersdorf, 1994)

Several mechanisms can exacerbate the emotional difficulties these individuals experience. First, individuals who report a state orientation, especially preoccupation, often ruminate in the aftermath of adverse events, such as criticism (Wiedermann, Busjahn, Heinrich, Listing, Mueller, & Richter-Heinrick 1994) as well as experience self pity and entertain self accusations. Because of these ruminations, these negative affective states become associated with a broader array of activities and events. As a consequence, these individuals are more likely to experience negative affect in a diversity of contexts (Sokolowski, 1994).

Regret

In general, individuals who exhibit a state orientation experience more pronounced feelings of regret. In one study, for example, McElroy and Dowd (2007) instructed participants to remember a past experience in which they had demonstrated action, such as attending a social event even if stress, or inaction, such as staying home.

Individuals with an action orientation experienced marginal, if any, regret when they reflected upon occasions in which they had demonstrated action. These individuals did experience regret when they reflected upon incidents that demonstrate inaction. Specifically, these memories are inconsistent with their usual inclinations, and such inconsistencies have been shown to underpin feelings of regret. Individuals with a state orientation experienced elevated levels of regret, regardless of whether they reminisced about instances of action or inaction.

Inaction inertia

An action orientation has also been shown to curb inaction inertia--the inclination of individuals to reject a reasonable offer, such as a holiday package, if they recently missed a better opportunity. Inaction inertia is a robust effect and has been observed in many contexts (e.g., Kumar, 2004).

In a typical example, published by Van Putten, Zeelenberg, and Van Dijk (2009), participants read a scenario, in which a travel agency had offered a trip to Rome for only $100, half the usual price of $200. When the participants eventually decided to purchase a ticket, however, they discovered the offer had expired. In other words, these participants had, in effect, missed a very attractive opportunity. Later, participants were informed that another offer was available--$170 instead of $200. Relative to individuals who were oblivious to the previous $100 offer, participants who were apprised of this offer were more inclined to reject the $170 fee. Presumably, relative to $100, they perceived the $170 fee as expensive.

Interestingly, this effect diminishes if participants experience or report an action orientation (Van Putten, Zeelenberg, & Van Dijk, 2009). Relative to participants with a state orientation, participants with an action orientation experienced the same level of regret when they discovered the initial offer was unavailable but were more inclined to value the trip. When individuals experience an action orientation, past disappointments are less likely to impinge upon future decisions.

Many other factors also have been shown to ameliorate or to amplify inaction inertia. First, the effect dissipates with time& participants reject offers when recent, rather than remote, opportunities were missed (e.g., Tykocinski & Pittman, 1998). Second, the effect diminishes if individuals believe the original offer--the offer they missed--was exceptional and unique (Zeelenberg, Nijstad, Van Putten, & Van Dijk, 2006).

Social behavior and personality

State orientation can also impinge upon the social behavior of individuals. These individuals, when they need to reach a decision, seek cues from other individuals (Fuhrer, 1994). That is, in contrast to individuals with an action orientation, individuals with a state orientation are less cognizant of their personal values, inclinations, and tendencies, necessitating the need to seek social information.

Nevertheless, state orientation is also inversely related to measures of sociability. For example, state orientation is negatively associated with extraversion (Keller, Straub, & Wolfersdorf, 1994). Furthermore, individuals who exhibit a state orientation are less inclined to forgive someone who has acted offensively (Allemand, Job, Christen, & Keller, 2008).

Factors that may magnify or inhibit the effects of action orientation

Regulatory focus

Regulatory focus has been shown to moderate the association between action orientation and performance following errors or failures. Regulatory focus refers to the extent to which individuals strive to pursue their future aspirations and maximize gains, called a promotion focus, or attempt to satisfy their immediate duties and minimize losses, called a prevention focus (Higgins, 1997& see Regulatory focus theory).

In a study conducted by de Lange and van Knippenberg (2009), participants completed a variant of the Eriksen Flanker task (Eriksen & Eriksen, 1974). On each trial, a series of 9 letters, arranged as a grid of three rows and three columns, appeared on a screen. All the letters were either an S or H. Participants were instructed to press one button, as rapidly as possible, if the central letter was the same as three of the corners. They were instructed to press another button otherwise.

Generally, after participants commit an error, their response on the next trial tends to be slower or less accurate (Rabbitt, 1966& Rabbitt & Rodgers, 1977). In the study conducted by de Lange and van Knippenberg (2009), however, when action orientation was elevated, individuals were often able to maintain the speed and accuracy of their responses even after they committed errors. Nevertheless, the benefits of action orientation were observed only in participants who adopted a promotion rather than prevention focus.

To explain this finding, de Lange and van Knippenberg (2009) argued that action orientation enables individuals to shift their emotional state optimally, as a means to fulfill their goals. If individuals adopt a prevention focus, action orientation facilitates their capacity to minimize errors. That is, the attention of these individuals will be orientated towards errors. Errors, therefore, become more salient, which can impair subsequent performance.

In contrast, when individuals adopt a promotion focus, an action orientation facilitates their capacity to maximize gains, often regardless of whether or not errors are committed. Attention, therefore, will not be directed towards errors. As a consequence, errors are unlikely to impair subsequent performance.

Relatedness

In general, a state orientation is inversely related to wellbeing. However, if people feel they have formed strong relationships with other people, this relationship between state orientation and wellbeing diminishes. That is, a state orientation is not as detrimental. For example, when people shift their attention to the similarities between themselves and their friends, state orientation is no longer strongly related to wellbeing (Chatterjee, Baumann, & Osborne, 2013). Presumably, while people feel they can depend on relationships and friends, they feel that stressful events can be overcome even if they doubt their own capacity to resolve problems.

To illustrate, in one study, participants completed measures that gauge action orientation, the degree to which they value loyalty, helpfulness, and forgiveness, the extent to which they are exposed to stressful events in their life, and wellbeing, epitomized by items like "I woke up feeling fresh and rested". State orientation was negatively associated with wellbeing, but only if people did not especially value loyalty, helpfulness, and forgiveness. This pattern of findings, however, was particularly likely to be observed in people who experience appreciable stress (Chatterjee, Baumann, & Osborne, 2013).

In the second study, participants were asked to reflect upon features that evoke feelings of similarity or difference to friends and family. In addition, they watched a movie that evoked negative or neutral feelings. Finally, participants completed measures of action orientation and mood. A state orientation was associated with a negative mood, unless participants reflected upon similarities between themselves and their friends. This pattern of findings, however, was observed only in people who watched the negative movie (Chatterjee, Baumann, & Osborne, 2013).

Measures of action and state orientation

The ACS90, validated by Kuhl (1994) and Diefendorff, Hall, Lord, and Strean (2000), is often used to assess both failure-related and demand-related action orientation versus state orientation (for related scales, both of which actually measure resilience, see Block & Kremen, 1996& Connor & Davidson, 2003). Each of these two subscales- failure-related and demand-related-comprise 12 items.

In some studies, if participants complete both subscales, the two sets of items are intermingled (e.g., Jostmann, Koole, van der Wulp, & Fockenberg, 2005). Furthermore, in some studies, the two subscales are combined to form an overall measure of action versus state orientation, sometimes called volitional control (Jostmann, Koole, van der Wulp, & Fockenberg, 2006).

Failure-related action orientation

To assess preoccupation versus disengagement, individuals receive 12 short scenarios, such as "When I have lost something very valuable to me and I can't find it anywhere..." One of these alternatives represents an action orientation or disengagement, such as "I put it out of my mind after a little while". The other alternative represents a state orientation or preoccupation, such as "I have a hard time concentrating on something else".

Another example includes: "If I've worked for weeks on one project and then everything goes completely wrong with the project", and the two alternatives are "It takes me a long time to adjust myself to it" or "It bothers me for a while, but then I don't think about it anymore".

Decision-related action orientation

Similar to the assessment of preoccupation versus disengagement, to assess initiative versus hesitation, individuals also receive 12 short scenarios, such as "When I know that I must finish something soon ..." One of these alternatives represents an action orientation or initiative, such as "I find it easy to get it done and over with". The other alternative represents a state orientation or preoccupation, such as "I have to push myself to get started".

Stability

Some studies indicate that state orientation might translate into action orientation if individuals are exposed to suitable conditions or experiences (e.g., Hartung & Schulte, 1994). Hartung and Schulte (1994), for example, showed that therapy, focusing on the diminution of catastrophic thinking as well as habituation and exposure to adverse events did foster an action orientation.

Face in the crowd task

The face in the crowd task is another activity that can be used to assess the capacity to regulate affect readily and effortlessly. On each trial, a matrix of 9 faces is presented. On some of the trials, all the faces display the same emotion: happiness, anger, or neutrality. On other trials, one of the faces displays a different emotion to the other faces. Participants must press one of two buttons depending on whether the matrix includes one face with a different emotion. According to Koole and Jostman (2004), if participants recognize one happy face amongst angry faces more rapidly than one angry face amongst happy faces, they tend to regulate emotions more effectively. That is, negative affect dissipates more rapidly (for further evidence, see Quirin, Bode, & Kuhl, 2011).

Manipulations of action orientation

Several researchers have implemented protocols or procedures that have been shown to induce an action or state orientation (e.g., Harmon-Jones & Harmon-Jones, 2002& Kuhl, 1981& Van Putten, Zeelenberg, & Van Dijk, 2009). In one study, reported by Van Putten, Zeelenberg, and Van Dijk (2009), participants read a scenario, in which a travel agency had offered a trip to Rome for only $100, half the usual price. However, when the participants eventually decided to purchase a ticket, the offer expired.

Some of the participants were instructed to describe how they might act to improve the situation. This instruction, which emphasizes an attempt to shift their momentary state, was intended to evoke an action orientation. Other participants were instructed to describe the thoughts and feelings this situation might elicit. This instruction, which reinforces the existing state, is thus likely to promote a state orientation.

Next, participants completed a measures of failure-related state orientation, the ACS-90. Consistent with these contentions, after an action orientation rather than state orientation was evoked, participants did indeed report an elevated level of action orientation.

Controversies

Action orientation generally refers to the capacity of some individuals to regulate their emotions effortlessly, rapidly, automatically, and perhaps unconsciously (e.g., Jostmann, Koole, van der Wulp, & Fockenberg, 2005). According to some authors, such as Eisenberg and Spinrad (2004), the concept of emotional regulation should be confined to effortful, conscious processes. As a consequence, from this perspective, action orientation is not strictly a facet of emotional regulation.

In contrast, other authors maintain the concept of emotional regulation should encompass both effortless, unconscious as well as effortful, conscious strategies (Gross, 1998a). Indeed, an effortful, conscious strategy, when repeated many times, may eventually be invoked automatically and unconsciously (e.g., Bargh & Chartrand, 1999& Fitzsimmons & Bargh, 2004& Mauss, Cook, Cheng, & Gross, 2007). From this perspective, an understanding of conscious strategies can also facilitate insight into unconscious strategies as well (for information on conscious emotional regulation, see explicit emotional regulation).

In short, some of the research into conscious emotional regulation might be germane to the concept of action orientation as well. For example, as Gross (1998a) emphasizes, optimal emotional regulation is not merely equivalent to the capacity of individuals to alleviate negative emotions. To regulate emotions appropriately, individuals need to evoke the affective states that are most applicable to the immediate goal, task, or context--which can sometimes include negative feelings (see also Schore, 2003). Accordingly, an action orientation, in which individuals regulate negative emotions effortlessly, might not be suitable to all environments.

Related constructs

Neuroticism and sensitivity

Many studies have shown that neuroticism is associated with a state orientation (e.g., Allemand, Job, Christen, & Keller, 2008), with correlations around .4 or .5. Indeed, neuroticism, at first glance, seems to overlap with preoccupation-the inability to alleviate negative affect. Nevertheless, neuroticism is usually conceptualized as primarily associated with sensitivity to adverse events, whereas state orientation refers to the inability to override these negative affective states.

Indeed, many studies indicate that sensitivity to negative events and regulation of negative states are distinct. For example, Rosahl, Tennigkeit, Kuhl, and Haschke (1993, cited in Kazen, Baumann, and Kuhl, 2005), conducted an EEG study and showed that state orientated individuals are less sensitive to negative affects that action orientated individuals.

Negative mood regulation expectancies

Negative mood regulation expectancies (e.g., Catanzaro, Wash, Kirsch, & Mearns, 2000)--the belief in individuals they can override negative mood states--might also be related to resilience or action orientation. From the perspective of social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1999), individuals who expect they can override negative mood states become more motivated to engage in behaviors that indeed fulfill these expectations. Consistent with this perspective, the capacity to improve mood is positively related to negative mood regulation expectancies. .

Hemenover, Augustine, Shulman, Tran, and Barlett (2008) also showed that such regulation expectancies enhanced the utility of strategies or approaches that were intended to improve mood. In one study, for example, participants watched an excerpt about a child serial skill to evoke negative affect. Second, participants engaged in a writing task. They were either asked to write about positive experiences in their life, positive consequences that might have accrued from events that were shown in the video, thoughts they were experiencing, or other reflections about the video. .

Writing about either positive life experiences or the positive consequences of some adversity did improve the mood of participants. Interestingly, these effects were especially pronounced in participants who reported elevated regulation expectancies--that is, in participants who believe they can override negative mood states.

According to Hemenover, Augustine, Shulman, Tran, and Barlett (2008), if individuals report elevated regulation expectancies, they are more motivated to enact strategies that improve their mood. As a consequence, they implement these approaches more frequently. Their capacity to apply these strategies improves--and perhaps become more automatic and seamless.

The tendency to monitor emotions closely--as well as the ability to distinguish similar emotions--also generates effects that resemble the impact of regulation expectancies. That is, when individuals monitor emotions closely or distinguish similar emotions, writing about positive experiences was especially likely to repair mood.

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