Regulatory Focus Theory
What is Regulatory Focus Theory?
Regulatory Focus Theory (RFT) has been found to predict motivation, memory, task enjoyment, creativity, and emotion (Förster et al., 2009). According to RFT, human behavior and motivation are underpinned by two unique systems of self-regulation: promotion focus, which is concerned with aspirations and accomplishments of ideals, and prevention focus, which is concerned with avoiding mistakes and fulfilling obligations (Higgins, 1997; Watling et al., 2012). Understanding this distinction has important ramifications on the content and delivery of effective feedback.
Key Concepts and Dimensions
Promotion is primarily concerned with accomplishments and achievements; goals are perceived as wishes or desires and individuals are motivated by achieving these goals (Watling et al., 2012).
Prevention focuses on responsibilities and safety; goals are perceived as obligations or necessities and individuals are motivated by avoiding pain or punishment as a result of not achieving these goals (Watling et al., 2012).
Regulatory Fit: For each regulatory focus, there is a preferred strategy during goal pursuit (Shah, Higgins, & Friedman, 1998). Eagerness strategies that support gains or advancements are preferred in promotional focus. Vigilance strategies that prevent losses are preferred in prevention focus. Regulatory fit occurs when an individual applies the preferred strategy during goal pursuit. Studies from various fields have shown that a message, information or instruction, is more effective in regulatory fit conditions compared to non-fit conditions.
Regulatory Focus Questionnaire (RFQ) is an 11-item instrument developed by Higgins et al. (2001) to measure individuals’ regulatory focus. The questions ask the respondents to indicate HOW FREQUENTLY specific events actually occur or have occurred in their lives.
The Self-Guide Congruencies Measure by Higgens et al. (1997) is another tool to determine individuals’ regulatory focus. This method was adopted by Shu and Lam (2011) in their study on the effects of success and failure feedback in a higher education setting.
Two other measures for Regulatory Focus:
- Regulatory Focus Measure – Abridged Version (8 items) (Hamstra et al., 2014)
- Regulatory Focus Scale – Translated Version (30 items) (Fellner et al., 2007)
Fellner, B., Holler, M., Kirchler, E., & Schabmann, A. (2007). Regulatory Focus Scale – Translated Version [Database record]. Retrieved from PsycTESTS. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/t07334-000
Förster, J., Werth, L., Moskowitz, G.B. & Grant, H. (2009). Regulatory focus: Classic findings and new directions The psychology of goals. New York: Guilford Press.
Hamstra, M. R. W., Sassenberg, K., Van Yperen, N. W., & Wisse, B. (2014). Regulatory Focus Measure – Abridged Version [Database record]. Retrieved from PsycTESTS. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/t34412-000
Higgins, E.T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist, 52, 1280–1300.
Higgins, E.T., Shah, J., & Friedman, R. (1997). Emotional responses to goal attainment: Strength of regulatory focus as a moderator. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 276-286.
Higgins, E. T. (1997). Beyond pleasure and pain. American Psychologist, 52, 1280-1300.
Higgins, E. T. (1998). Promotion and prevention: Regulatory focus as a motivational principle. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 30, 1-46.
Higgins, E. T., Friedman, R. S., Harlow, R. E., Idson, L. C., Ayduk, O. N., Taylor, A. (2001). Achievement orientations from subjective histories of success: Promotion pride versus prevention pride. European Journal of Social Psychology, 31, 3-23.
Shah, J., Higgins, E. T. & Friedman, R. (1998). Performance incentives and means: How regulatory focus influences goal attainment. Personality & Social Psychology, 74, 285-293.
Shu, T.M., & Lam, S.F. (2011). Are success and failure experiences equally motivational? An investigation of regulatory focus and feedback. Educational Neuroscience, 21(6), 724-727.
Watling, C., Driessen, E., van der Vleuten, C., P.M., Vanstone, M., & Lingard, L. (2012). Understanding responses to feedback: The potential and limitations of regulatory focus theory. Medical Education, 46(6), 593-603. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.mnsu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1039032680?accountid=12259