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Viewing yourself positively and negatively are both motivating: the effects of regulatory focus and culture

Viewing oneself positively has long been regarded as motivating. Past studies (e.g., Bandura, 1982; Feather, 1966; Felson, 1984; Taylor & Brown, 1988) have shown that maintaining positive self-view has positive impacts on motivation. However, the importance of positive self-evaluation has been challenged by some recent studies (e.g., Kim, Chiu, & Zou, 2010; Marx & Roman, 2002). The motivational benefits of positive self-evaluation are inconclusive. The present research addressed this issue by investigating the conditions that may facilitate or undermine the motivational effects of positive or negative self-evaluations. Specifically, two experiments were conducted to investigate the moderating role of culture and regulatory focus on the motivational effects of self-evaluations.

Study One investigated the moderating role of culture on the motivational effects of self-evaluation. A 2 (self-evaluation: positive vs. negative) x 2 (cultural groups: Caucasian vs. Chinese) experimental design was adopted. One hundred and eleven participants were recruited, in which 56 were local Chinese college students and 55 were Caucasian students from universities in North America but studied in Hong Kong through exchange programs. The participants were asked to engage in two visual search tests. After the first test, the participants were randomly assigned to the positive or negative self-evaluation condition. Half of the participants were told that they did better than 70% of their fellow students. The other half were told that they did worse than 60% of their fellow students. They were then asked to write down three personal merits or limitations that accounted for their good or bad performances before the second test. Afterwards, the participants were asked to do the second test. Their persistence and performance in this test were measured. The findings showed a consistent interaction effect between culture and self-evaluation on the two outcome measures. The positive self-evaluation was motivating to the Caucasian participants whereas the negative self-evaluation was motivating to the Chinese participants.

Study Two investigated if regulatory focus, a personality variable, moderates the motivational effect of self-evaluation. It adopted a 2 (self-evaluation: positive vs. negative) x 2 (regulatory focus: promotion focus vs. prevention focus) experimental design. The participants (93 Hong Kong college students) were asked to engage in three visual search tests. The experimental procedures were the same as those in Study One except that three instead of two visual search tests were included. The first and third tests were those used in Study One. The second test was primed for regulatory focus and was presented with a journal article that advocated either a promotion or prevention focus.

Persistence and performance of the participants in the third test was measured. They were also asked to indicate whether they were willing to join a training workshop to improve their visual search ability. The findings showed a pattern parallel to those in Study One. The positive self-evaluation was motivating to participants with promotion focus, whereas the negative self-evaluation was motivating to participants with prevention focus.

The two studies showed both within and between cultural differences in the motivational effects of positive and negative self-evaluations. The findings were discussed with reference to the literature on cultural and individual differences in motivation. / published_or_final_version / Psychology / Doctoral / Doctor of Philosophy

  1. 10.5353/th_b4832958
  2. b4832958
Date January 2012
CreatorsShu, Tse-mei, Annie., 舒子薇.
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Source SetsHong Kong University Theses
Detected LanguageEnglish
RightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works., Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License
RelationHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)

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