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Abstract

The present research investigates the impact of negative and positive stereotypic expectancies on cognitive test performance. A theoretical framework that relates expectancy effects to self-regulatory processes as postulated by Regulatory Focus Theory (RFT) is presented. Building on the differential sensitivity hypothesis proposed in this theoretical model, we argue that when self-regulation in a prevention focus is activated individuals are particularly sensitive with regard to negative cues and therefore negative expectancies are likely to result in poor test performance due to an apprehension about meeting minimal goal standards. Conversely, when self-regulation is guided by a promotion focus individuals are particularly sensitive with regard to positive cues and hence likely to show impaired performance when confronted with positive expectancies due to an apprehension about meeting maximal goal standards. The results of four experiments, relying on both situational and chronic regulatory focus, support these assumptions. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.