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Regulatory Focus and Political Decision Making: When People Favor Reform Over the Status Quo

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Abstract

Two studies examined the impact of self-reported use of promotion-related (i.e., eagerness) and prevention-related (i.e., vigilance) strategies when making “risky” or “conservative” decisions about economic reform under good, average, or poor economic conditions. Consistent with regulatory focus theory (Higgins, 1997, 1998, 2000), in both studies strategic vigilance was associated with making a conservative choice, whereas strategic eagerness was associated with making a risky choice. In addition, along with perceptions of economic conditions, chronic strength of prevention focus (Study 1) or situationally induced prevention focus (Study 2) was associated with using strategic vigilance, whereas chronic strength of promotion focus (Study 1) or situationally induced promotion focus (Study 2) was associated with using strategic eagerness. Finally, regulatory focus and economic perceptions indirectly predicted economic reform decisions through their impact on strategy use. Our studies are the first to demonstrate that vigilant or eager strategy use is associated with “conservative” or “risky” political decisions.

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