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01-11-2013 | Original Article | Uitgave 6/2013

Psychological Research 6/2013

Regulatory focus influences perseveration and distractibility in task switching

Tijdschrift:
Psychological Research > Uitgave 6/2013
Auteurs:
Hong Zhang, Darius K.-S. Chan

Abstract

In two experiments, we investigated the effect of regulatory focus (Higgins, Am Psychol, 52, 1280–1300, 1997) on people’s maintenance and switching behavior. In the experimental tasks, participants were asked to react selectively to one category of stimuli while ignoring the other. After several practice trials, participants had to switch either to new stimuli which were paired with former target stimuli (i.e., in the perseveration condition), or switch to former distracter stimuli which were paired with new stimuli (i.e., in the learned irrelevance condition). Results from both experiments indicated that a promotion focus promoted switching to new stimuli in the perseveration condition, at the cost of poorer performance on switching to former distracters in the learned irrelevance condition. This pattern of results applied to both chronic individual differences in regulatory focus (Experiment 1), and regulatory focus temporarily manipulated in the laboratory (Experiment 2). It suggests that whereas a promotion focus indeed promotes cognitive flexibility, it also incurs a cost in terms of increased likelihood of being distracted.

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