COGNITIVE PROCESSES IN RESPONSE TO PROMOTION AND PREVENTION FAILURE: A STUDY OF MALADAPTIVE RUMINATION AND ITS AFFECTIVE CONSEQUENCES
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Theories of self-regulation have not adequately specified the psychological events and processes that cause an emotional response following acute failure to be prolonged and intensified. Research on repetitive thought suggests that engaging maladaptive rumination can prolong and intensify existing mood states. However, theories of rumination have not incorporated the implications of failing to attain different types of desired end states for rumination, that is failing to attain goals associated with nurturance and advancement (i.e., promotion goals) versus goals associated with safety and security (i.e., prevention goals). In this investigation, 78 graduate and professional students participated in a within-subjects experimental design testing the overall hypothesis that exposure to past failures to attain promotion and prevention goals will promote maladaptive rumination on dejection- and agitation-related emotions, respectively. Furthermore, under conditions of high negative affect engaging in maladaptive rumination will cause the specific type of negative affect experienced to be intensified and prolonged. Study findings did not result in clear support for the proposed model in the prevention condition. The prevention manipulation failed to induce agitation-related emotions associated with anxiety and instead appeared to induce emotions associated with anger. The prevention condition also did not result in unique changes in quiescence. However, as predicted decreases in quiescence uniquely predicted increased engagement in maladaptive rumination. In this condition, engagement in rumination did not interact with low levels of quiescence to prolong and further decrease quiescence. Stronger support was found for the proposed model in the promotion condition. Individuals with chronic promotion failure experienced significant increases in dejection following exposure to past promotion failures. The level of dejection experienced significantly predicted engaging in greater maladaptive rumination. Furthermore, engaging in maladaptive rumination in the presence of high levels of dejection intensified and prolonged of the experience of dejection-related emotions. Overall, the results suggest that self-regulatory cognition, the level of affect that results, and variability in the tendency to engage in maladaptive rumination all play a significant role in determining a person's cognitive and emotional experiences in the ongoing process of self-regulation.
Regulatory Focus Theory
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