Regulatory Focus Theory

in Psychology, Behavioral And Social Science

Introduction

Regulatory focus theory is a persuasion theory which focuses on a person’s perceptions on decision making. E. Tory Higgins, professor of psychology in Columbia University formulated the theory and is considered to be one of the notable contributions to the field of human psychology. The theory basically revolves around the enthusiasm of a person and how the person reaches his goal. This theory roots into the concepts of regulatory fit theory where a person while making a decision experience a feeling which makes the choice appropriate in a particular situation.

Regulatory Focus Theory

Regulatory focus theory emphases on persuading on reaching a goal while keeping particular individual’s standards, and is determined void of anything negative. The person tries to align their lives according to the goal set and through motivation the person reaches from the current situation to a desirable position.

The theory distinguishes two focuses such as promotional focus and prevention focus.

Promotion focus – the primary focus is given to gains and accomplishments and motivates people to align with their exemplary life. The approach will be creative and innovative with an objective of gaining more. A person with promotion perspective focuses on increasing the accomplishments without considering the losses.

Prevention focus – the safety and security is given primary focus and to align their lives to their prospective. Here the approach adopted by the people mostly focuses on compensating the losses. A person with a prevention perspective focuses on decreasing the losses than accomplishing.

When people take a decision, the two regulatory focuses persuade their influences and choices through different means. People apply one of these perspectives while accomplishing. The broad difference comes when the people who adopted a promotion focus largely display enthusiasm and on the contrary, people having a prevention perspective will be alert contemplating the losses they could encounter.

People’s persuasion generally lies on the promotion– prevention focuses and can directly influence them to accept positive or negative information. A person with a promotion focus is mostly persuaded by the positivity in the situation while a person following prevention focus accepts the situations negatively. Other influencing factor which influences the promotion- prevention focus in an individual is the cultural background that the person belonging to.

Applications

Regulatory focus theory can be applied in the fields where persuasion and impression formation is essential like in the field of advertising, the messages can me either promotional or prevention focus which can persuade the buyers. Some creative captions comes both promotion and prevention which could be effective in persuading both the audience. For e.g.- “making your home look luxurious without cutting a hole in your pocket.” The theory can also apply in interpersonal communication to evaluate and to persuade people.

Example

Susan completed her graduation and wanted to pursue her education further. In this context, the situation can be analysed in two possible ways. Either she can think about gaining more knowledge on the subject and the career growth that follows or she can think about the years she has to lose again for her studies.

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