Social change as an important goal or likely outcome: How regulatory focus affects commitment to collective action


Maarten P. Zaal, Social and Organizational Psychology, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9555, 2300RB, Leiden, The Netherlands (e-mail:


The results of three experiments showed that regulatory focus influences the way in which the importance and likelihood of social change affect individuals’ commitment to collective action. In Studies 1 (N= 82) and 2 (N= 153), the strength of participants’ chronic regulatory focus was measured. In Study 3 (N= 52), promotion or prevention focus was experimentally induced. The results showed that for individuals under promotion focus, commitment to collective action depended on the perceived likelihood that through this action important social change would be achieved. Individuals under prevention focus were willing to commit to collective action when they attached high importance to its goal, regardless of the extent to which they believed that attainment of this goal was likely. Implications of these results for work on regulatory focus and collective action are discussed.