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Regulatory mode

Dr. Simon Moss

Overview

Individuals can engage in two modes or approaches to change their behavior and fulfill their goals. First, they can engage in a mode called assessment, characterized by a tendency to evaluate alternative courses of action methodically and meticulously. Individuals who are especially inclined to apply this mode evaluate their plans, other people, as well as themselves carefully and thoroughly. Second, individuals can engage in a mode called locomotion, committing the mental and physical resources that are needed to initiative the actions that are selected as well as maintain these plans. Individuals who often apply this mode tend to be persistent, active, ambitious, energetic, eager and inclined to begin one initiative as soon as they have completed their last endeavor. Their primarily motivation is to experience a shift from the existing state and progress towards their goals.

Both assessment and locomotion are essential to the achievement of goals. Nevertheless, undue assessment and insufficient locomotion characterizes many problems, such as anxiety, depression, and aggression. Fortunately, the tendency to engage in locomotion can be cultivated& even when individuals merely reflect on occasions in which they acted with vigor, purpose, and spontaneity, they become more inclined to demonstrate the benefits of locomotion.

Locomotion represents a motivation to shift from the current psychological state-to change some emotion, cognition, action, or plan. These individuals pursue goals they feel are attainable, somewhat irrespective of the importance of significance of these pursuits (Kruglanski, Thompson, Higgins, Atash, Pierro, Shah, & Spiegel, 2000).

Assessment represents a need to identify the optimal course of action to pursue some goal. These individuals pursue goals they feel are important, somewhat irrespective of the feasibility or plausibility of these endeavors (Kruglanski, Thompson, Higgins, Atash, Pierro, Shah, & Spiegel, 2000). Assessment and locomotion are sometimes conceptualized as conflicting tendencies. Assessment is positively, and locomotion is inversely, related to depression. Nevertheless, researchers also regard assessment and locomotion as two distinct systems (Higgins, Kruglanski, & Pierro, 2003) and, therefore, individuals can demonstrate elevated or low levels of both assessment and locomotion

Kruglanski, Thompson, Higgins, Atash, Pierro, Shah, and Spiegel (2000) conducted a diverse range of studies, using a variety of samples, to explore the correlates of assessment and locomotion.

Implications of regulatory mode

Affect and self esteem

Individuals who report elevated levels of locomotion are less inclined to experience social anxiety or depression, but instead enjoy high self esteem and optimism, although most of these correlations are small to moderate. Assessment, in contrast, shows the opposite pattern of associations (Kruglanski, Thompson, Higgins, Atash, Pierro, Shah, & Spiegel, 2000).

In addition to affect and self esteem, regulatory mode also affects the likelihood of symptoms that tend to coincide with borderline personality (Bornovalova, Fishman, Strong, Kruglanski, & Lejuez, 2007). Specifically, individuals who report a locomotion, but not an assessment mode, are more inclined to be very sensitive to interpersonal problems, and act aggressively as a consequence, as well as behave impulsively without due deliberation.

The finding that locomotion was inversely related to aggression and impulsivity might seem surprising&& that is, locomotion reduces hesitation and, therefore, could be assumed to facilitate aggression and impulsivity. Importantly, however, locomotion involves deploying and committing more psychological and physical resources to enact a goal. Individuals who report locomotion, therefore, tend to engage in adaptive acts that demand considerable effort. They shun maladaptive behaviors that are intended to minimize the expenditure of effort.

Materialism and wellbeing

An assessment, rather than locomotion, mode tends to promote materialistic values--values that, ultimately, tend to impair wellbeing. In particular, when people adopt an assessment mode, they are especially inclined to compare their alternatives to some standard or ideal. That is, they evaluate alternatives, including themselves, more often. Because they often evaluate themselves, they feel the need to prove, substantiate, and clarify their worth or characteristics.

Material goods have been shown to fulfill this need in individuals to prove, substantiate, and clarify their qualities. That is, individuals can define themselves, at least partly, by their possessions. Luxurious possessions may imply they are worthy. Unusual possessions may imply they are creative, and so forth. Taken together, these arguments imply that an assessment mode could be associated with materialism.

This possibility was proposed and validated by Giacomantonio, Mannetti, and Pierro (2013). In their study, participants first imagined various times in which they either had begun one project before completing other projects, intended to prime a locomotion mode, or had evaluated their alternatives carefully, intended to prime an assessment mode. Next, participants read a series of scenarios about people who abandoned their true passions to impress other people, such as squandering their money on items that would be perceived as impressive by friends. Participants then rated the degree to which they perceived these reactions as appropriate. If an assessment rather than locomotion mode had been primed, these individuals were likely to feel that relinquishing personal values to buy impressive goods is appropriate.

The second study extended this finding. Specifically, this study showed the relationship between an assessment mode and materialistic values, as gauged by items like "I admire people who own expensive homes, cars and clothes", was mediated by the motivation to accrue money to prove they are not a failure and are better than other individuals. Furthermore, materialistic values were positively associated with the extent to which these individuals had experienced negative emotions over the last month.

Personality

Individuals who show elevated levels of locomotion tend to strive vigorously to achieve goals, behave conscientiously, as well as demonstrate extraversion. In contrast, individuals who report elevated levels of assessment tend to be aversive to ambiguity as well as demonstrate neuroticism and openness to experience, as defined by the five factor model.

Achievement

As Pierro, Kruglanski, and Higgins (2006) showed, individuals who exhibit high levels of locomotion are especially likely to experience intrinsic motivation, feeling engaged in tasks that are inherently challenging or interesting. In contrast, individuals who show high levels of assessment are more inclined to experience extrinsic motivation, in which they feel driven by the prospect of reward and recognition. Nevertheless, the positive association between locomotion and goal attainment diminishes when individuals do not engage in assessment.

Completing multiple tasks concurrently

As Pierro, Giacomantonio, Pica, Kruglanski, and Higgins (2013) showed, when individuals adopt a locomotion mode, they are more inclined to like completing or juggling several activities at the same time, called multi-tasking. Specifically, the primary motivation of people with a locomotion mode is to shift from their existing state and experience a sense of progress towards their goals. Multi-tasking enables individuals to feel they are progressing on several goal simultaneously and, therefore, should fulfill the primary needs of people with a locomotion mode.

To illustrate, in one study, undergraduate students completed a measure of regulatory mode as well as preference towards multi-tasking, epitomized by items like "I like to juggle several activities at the same time" and "When I have several things to do, I prefer to spend a little bit of time on each--moving back and forth from one thing to the other". A locomotion mode was positively related to multi-tasking preferences.

Because people with a locomotion mode prefer multi-tasking, these individuals should be more satisfied with their job, and less stressed, than other individuals when they need to complete several tasks concurrently. The second study verified this possibility. Participants completed measures that gauge regulatory mode, the degree to which their job demands multi-tasking, epitomized by items like "My job demands that I juggle several activities at the same time", as well as job satisfaction, stress, and turnover intentions. For people who report elevated levels of locomotion, multi-tasking was positively associated with job satisfaction and negatively associated with stress and turnover intentions. For people who report low levels of locomotion, multi-tasking was negatively associated with job satisfaction and positively associated with stress and turnover intentions.

Preferred leadership

Across a range of studies, Kruglanski, Pierro, and Higgins (2007) showed that regulatory mode influences the leadership style that individuals prefer. In particular, employees who report elevated levels of locomotion prefer leaders to, act forcefully, apply social pressure, or refer to established policies and hierarchies to influence people. That is, they prefer tactics that initiate change rapidly. In contrast, employees who report elevated levels of assessment prefer leaders that consult with other individuals or utilize their expertise to influence people-that is, leaders who facilitate a more reflective process. Employees were more likely to feel satisfied with their job when the behavior of their leaders aligned with these preferences.

Individuals who experienced a locomotion mode, however, preferred transformational leaders-leaders who promulgate an inspiring vision of the future, align their behavior to these values, and challenge obsolete practices--perhaps because of their preference for change and variety. In contrast, individuals who experienced an assessment mode fostered a preference towards transactional leaders-leaders who specify precise goals, provide regular feedback, and ensure procedures are clear. These leaders reduce the number of options that can be pursued, facilitating the evaluation of these alternatives, and thus curbing stress.

Many leaders attempt to initiate change-to introduce novel policies, procedures, or practices-when employees are not receptive. These leaders cannot determine when employees are most inclined to embrace change and do not introduce measures that precipitate this receptivity to change. This resistance, however, can be readily circumvented. Employees are more inclined to prefer a charismatic, visionary, transformational leader after they are asked to imagine an instance in which they initiated a new venture, or launched a daring endeavor, without careful contemplation or reflection. They could, for instance, be asked to "Recall an instance in which you could not wait to begin a new, exciting venture. My goal is to inspire that level of excitement". Even the memory of one example-one instance of risk and courage-is enough to augment the receptivity of employees to change and development. The proverb "just do it" when mentioned also increases this receptivity.

Preferred stability or flux

When individuals adopt a locomotion mode, they form positive attitudes towards any object, brand, or alternative that is associated with a dyanmic context. In contrast, when individuals experience an assessment mode, they form positive attitudes towards objects, brands, or options that are associated with static contexts.

To illustrate, in one study, reported by Manetti, Giacomantonio, Higgins, Pierro, and Kruglanski (2010), either a locomotion or assessment mode was first evoked. In particular, to elicit a locomotion mode, participants were asked to write about three times in which they experienced this orientation, feeling inspired to proceed to one project after completing a previous task. To elicit an assessment mode, other participants were instructed to write about three times in which they experienced this orientation, appraising their positive and negative qualities closely.

Next, they rated their attitudes towards a print advertisement, designed to promote iPods. They also specified the amount of money they are willing to pay to purchase this product. For some participants, the advertisement depicted a dynamic scene, in which a girl was dancing while listing to an iPod. For other participants, the advertisement depicted a static scene: merely a photograph of an iPod. If a locomotion mode was evoked, the dynamic advertisement was preferred and encouraged participants to spend more. If an assessment mode was evoked, the static advertisement was preferred and more effective.

The second study that was reported by Manetti, Giacomantonio, Higgins, Pierro, and Kruglanski (2010) was similar to the first study. However, the product was a wristwatch. The dynamic advertisement depicted footballers during a match. The static advertisement depicted footballers before or after the match. Again, the dynamic advertisement was effective when participants adopted a locomotion mode, and the static advertisement was effective when participants adopted an assessment mode.

Accordingly, when individuals experience a locomotion mode, they seek change and movement& dynamic scenes, thus, align with their needs and thus elicit a sense of fit. When individuals experience an assessment mode, they avert change and movement& they experience a sense of fit when the context is static. Hence, like strategies, approaches, or contexts that match the regulatory focus of individuals, strategies, approaches, or contexts that match their regulatory mode also elicit a sense of fit (cf., Cesario, Higgins, & Scholer, 2008)

Commitment to change

While individuals deliberate over whether to commit to some ambitious change, such as whether or not to pursue another job, a locomotion mode facilitates commitment to change. In particular, when individuals experience a locomotion mode, they become more likely to seek and to value goals that epitomize change. Consequently, they are more likely to commit to ambitious changes (Scholer & Higgins, 2011).

To illustrate, in one study, conducted by Scholer and Higgins (2011), participants reflected upon a possible change they may initiate in the future. They might, for example, want to quit smoking or leave their job, but have not quite committed to this possibility yet. In addition, some of the participants were encouraged to embrace change, epitomizing a locomotion mode. For example, they read an article that highlights the benefits of changing when unsure of how to proceed. Other participants were encouraged to be more considered, epitomizing an assessment mode. For instance, they read an article that highlights the benefits of thinking carefully and exhaustively.

In addition, participants completed a series of questionnaires. One of the questionnaires, for example, assessed whether these individuals tend to adopt a locomotion mode or assessment mode. Another questionnaire assessed self efficacy. Finally, three weeks later, participants indicated the degree to which they felt committed to this goal.

If participants tended to adopt a locomotion mode, they were more likely to commit to these changes, but only if they were also encouraged to embrace change,. Presumably, if individuals tend to embrace a locomotion mode, they seek goals and cues that epitomize change. As soon as these goals are salient, they experience a sense of fit or resilience. They feel these goals are valuable, inspiring commitment.

According to Scholer and Higgins (2011), people should perhaps adopt an assessment mode initially, at least before they have decided which alternatives are optimal. After a while, however, they should adopt a locomotion mode, to commit to these changes.

Measures

Kruglanski, Thompson, Higgins, Atash, Pierro, Shah, and Spiegel (2000) developed a scale to assess regulatory mode. Twelve items represent locomotion--the extent to which individuals feel an urge to initiate actions that fulfill their goals--such as "By the time I accomplish a task, I already have the next one in mind". Twelve items represent assessment--the degree to which individuals evaluate various options and states critically and carefully--such as "I like evaluating other people's plans".

Cronbach's a was .78 for the locomotion scale and .83 for the assessment scale. Confirmatory factor analysis verified the two dimensional structure across multiple cultures. Known group analysis revealed that locomotion was elevated in military, relative to college, samples& assessment was elevated in college, relative to military, samples-consistent with hypotheses. Correlations with a measure of social desirability were small.

Antecedents to regulatory mode

Research has revealed that regulatory mode can be manipulated, at least transiently (Avnet & Higgins, 2003). For example, in a study conducted by Benjamin and Flynn (2006), some participants were asked to write about instances in which they could not wait to begin a new, exciting venture after completing a previous project-an exercise that was intended to foster a locomotion mode. In contrast, other participants were asked to write about instances in which they compared themselves to other individuals, reflected upon their strengths and limitations, and evaluated work critically, ultimately to instill an assessment mode.

The locomotion mode was shown to promote a preference for transformational leaders-charismatic, inspiring individuals who challenge the status quo. An assessment mode was shown to promote a preference for transactional leaders who impose clear goals and incentives. These findings aligned with the hypotheses and thus vindicate the validity of this manipulation.

Overlapping but distinct concepts

The distinction between locomotion and assessment is similar, but not identical, to the concept of action and state orientation, first characterized by Kuhl (1985) and elaborated in Kuhl (1994). In particular, action orientation refers to the capacity to plan, initiate, and enact intentions effectively, with no undue hesitation, to fulfill goals. In other words, individuals who exhibit this orientation are able to undertake the courses of action that are germane to their surrounding context. In contrast, state orientation refers to a deficiency in one facet of this sequence and, therefore, an inability to realize goals.

Two forms of state orientation have been distinguished. Some individuals cannot formulate suitable action plans to fulfil their goals, designated as preoccupation. In contrast, some individuals cannot commit to these action plans&& they cannot decide which action plan they will pursue, referred to as hesitation. Kruglanski, Thompson, Higgins, Atash, Pierro, Shah, and Spiegel (2000) indeed revealed that hesitation is positively related to assessment and negatively related to locomotion, with moderate effect sizes.

Minimal versus maximal goals

Some researchers distinguish between minimal and maximal goals (Berthold, Mummendey, Kessler, Luecke, & Schubert, 2013). In particular, when individuals set minimal goals, their primary objective is merely to exceed some criterion or minimum. For example, while completing an exam, these people may strive only to pass or to receive at least 60%. If people adopt this mindset, they tend to classify outcomes into either failures or success.

In contrast, when people set maximal goals, their primary objective is to progress as closely to some optimum as possible. For example, while completing an exam, these people may strive to answer as many questions correctly as possible. If people adopt this mindset, they do not tend to classify outcomes into either failures or success--but grade their outcomes continuously from failure to success.

Berthold, Mummendey, Kessler, Luecke, and Schubert (2013) showed that minimal goals can provoke negative attitudes towards other groups or communities. In particular, when individuals adopt minimal goals, they are more inclined to classify events into two categories: failure versus success or in-group versus out-group, for example. Consequently, they tend to classify other groups or communities as out-groups rather than in-groups and thus fundamentally distinct from their own group, provoking prejudice& they are not as sensitive to graded differences between their own group and other groups.

In this study, German participants listened to a debate in Poland about whether abortion laws should be tightened. They were then asked to rate their attitudes to Poland on this matter, typified by questions such as "Given its position towards the tightening of abortion laws, one should not support Poland". In addition, they were asked to rate the attitudes towards abortion in Poland, Germany, and the European Union.

Before completing this task however, a minimal goal mindset or a maximal goal mindset had been evoked. Participants received a row of ds and ps. A dash was inserted above some letters, below some letters, or above and below some letters. To evoke a minimal mindset, participants were told to tick all ds with a dash above and below and complete at least half the first row. To evoke a maximal mindset, participants were told to tick as many ds with a dash above and below as possible and as many rows as possible.

If participants adopted a minimal rather than maximal goal orientation, they expressed less favorable perceptions of Poland. They perceived Germany, compared to Poland, as more representative of the European Union on attitudes to abortion, sometimes called ingroup projection.

References

Avnet, T., & Higgins, E. T. (2003). Locomotion, assessment, and regulatory fit: Value transfer from "how" to "what". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 525-530.

Benjamin, L., & Flynn, F. J. (2006). Leadership style and regulatory mode: Value from fit. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 100, 216-230.

Berthold, A., Mummendey, A., Kessler, T., Luecke, B. & Schubert, T. (2013). When different means bad or merely worse. How minimal and maximal goals affect ingroup projection and outgroup attitudes. European Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 682-690. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.1878

Bornovalova, M. A., Fishman, S., Strong, D. R., Kruglanski, A. W., & Lejuez, C. W. (2007). Borderline personality disorder in the context of self-regulation: Understanding symptoms and hallmark features as deficits in locomotion and assessment. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 22-31.

Cesario, J., Higgins, E. T., & Scholer, A. A. (2008). Regulatory fit and persuasion: Basic principles and remaining questions. Social and Personality Compass, 2/1, 444-463.

Giacomantonio, M., Mannetti, L., & Pierro, A. (2013). Locomoting toward well-being or getting entangled in a material world: Regulatory modes and affective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 38, 80-89. doi: 10.1016/j.joep.2012.07.003

Higgins, E. T., Kruglanski, A. W. & Pierro, A. (2003). Regulatory mode: Locomotion and assessment as distinct orientations. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 293-344.

Kruglanski, A. W., Pierro, A., & Higgins, E. T. (2007). Regulatory mode and preferred leadership styles: How fit increases job satisfaction. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 29, 137-149.

Kruglanski, A. W., Thompson, E. P., Higgins, E. T., Atash, M. N., Pierro, A., Shah, J. Y., & Spiegel, S. (2000). To "do the right thing" or to "just do it": Locomotion and assessment as distinct self regulatory imperatives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 793-815.

Kuhl, J. (1985). Volitional mediation of cognition-behavior consistency: Self-regulatory processes and action versus state orientation. In J. Kuhl & J. Beckman (Eds.), Action control: From cognition to behavior (pp. 101-128). Berlin, Germany: Springer-Verlag.

Kuhl, J. (1994). A theory of action and state orientation. In J. Kuhl & J Beckmann (Eds.), Volition and personality: Action vs state orientation (pp. 9-46). Seattle: Hogrefe & Huber.

Manetti, L., Giacomantonio, M., Higgins, E. T., Pierro, & Kruglanski, A. W. (2010). Tailoring visual images to fit: Value creation in persuasive messages. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 206-215.

Pierro, A., Giacomantonio, M., Pica, G., Kruglanski, A. W. & Higgins, E. T. (2013). Locomotion and the preference for multi-tasking: Implications for well-being. Motivation and Emotion, 37, 213-223. doi: 10.1007/s11031-012-9300-y

Pierro, A., Kruglanski, A. W., & Higgins, E. T. (2006). Regulatory mode and the joys of doing: Effects of "locomotion" and "assessment" on intrinsic and extrinsic task-motivation. European Journal of Personality, 20, 355-375.

Scholer, A. A., & Higgins, E. T. (2011). Commitment to change from locomotion motivation during deliberation. Motivation and Emotion, 35. doi: 10.1007/s11031-011-9239-4








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Last Update: 5/25/2016