Regulatory focus and human values

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DOI: 10.2298/PSI160809004K
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Abstract
The present article connects two approaches to the study of human motivation and behavior: The Schwartz model of human values and Higgins’ regulatory focus theory. Considering a prominent model of human motivation - the Rubicon Model of Action Phases - reveals that although both approaches refer to goals and standards as crucial constructs, human values are specifically relevant concerning the so-called deliberation and evaluation phases whereas selfregulatory orientations are specifically relevant concerning the volitional phases (i.e., planning and action). It may be due to the selective focus on specific aspects of human motivation that up to date hardly any (empirical) work has tried to connect human values and selfregulatory orientations. The reported studies assessed the relation between the endorsement of values proposed in the Schwartz model of human values and individual differences in the two self-regulatory orientations (promotion and prevention) proposed in regulatory focus theory. Findings reveal that prevention-focused self-regulation is positively related to conservation values (security, conformity) and negatively related to values reflecting openness to change (stimulation, self-direction). Moreover, promotion-focused self-regulation was positively related to self-enhancement values (power, achievement) and negatively related to values reflecting self-transcendence (universalism, benevolence). In addition, the observed relations were found using different instruments to measure human values and self-regulatory orientations. In combination, the observed findings support the proposed two-dimensional structure of the value system as well as fundamental assumptions of regulatory focus theory.
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PSIHOLOGIJA, 2017, OnlineFirst, 1–30 UDC:
© 2017 by the Serbian Psychological Association DOI: https://doi.org/10.2298/PSI160809004K
Regulatory focus and human values*
Johannes Keller & Rebekka Kesberg
Department of Social Psychology, Ulm University, Germany
The present article connects two approaches to the study of human motivation and behavior:
The Schwartz model of human values and Higgins’ regulatory focus theory. Considering a
prominent model of human motivation – the Rubicon Model of Action Phases – reveals that
although both approaches refer to goals and standards as crucial constructs, human values are
specifically relevant concerning the so-called deliberation and evaluation phases whereas self-
regulatory orientations are specifically relevant concerning the volitional phases (i.e., planning
and action). It may be due to the selective focus on specific aspects of human motivation
that up to date hardly any (empirical) work has tried to connect human values and self-
regulatory orientations. The reported studies assessed the relation between the endorsement
of values proposed in the Schwartz model of human values and individual differences in
the two self-regulatory orientations (promotion and prevention) proposed in regulatory
focus theory. Findings reveal that prevention-focused self-regulation is positively related to
conservation values (security, conformity) and negatively related to values reflecting openness
to change (stimulation, self-direction). Moreover, promotion-focused self-regulation was
positively related to self-enhancement values (power, achievement) and negatively related to
values reflecting self-transcendence (universalism, benevolence). In addition, the observed
relations were found using different instruments to measure human values and self-regulatory
orientations. In combination, the observed findings support the proposed two-dimensional
structure of the value system as well as fundamental assumptions of regulatory focus theory.
Keywords: human values, prevention, promotion, regulatory focus, motivation
Highlights:
Relation between Schwartz value model and Higgins’ regulatory focus
theory is shown
Prevention-focus relates to the conservation-openness dimension of human
values
Promotion-focus relates to the self-enhancement, self-transcendence dimension
Relations are shown using different instruments
Corresponding author: johannes.keller@uni-ulm.de
Acknowledgement. The study was supported by the German Science Foundation.
* This is an early electronic version of the manuscript that has been accepted for publication in
Psihologija journal. Please note that this is not the final version of the article and that it can be
subjected to minor changes before final print. Please cite as: Keller, J., & Kesberg, R. (2017).
Regulatory focus and human values. Psihologija. doi: https://doi.org/10.2298/PSI160809004K
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The analysis of what motivates people to engage and persist in activities
is among the most basic topics of social scientific research. One theoretical
perspective on this fundamental question focuses on the analysis of distinct
goals and standards as guiding forces that influence individuals’ motivational
processes. Two particularly prominent approaches contributing to this perspective
can be differentiated: theoretical models that focus on human values (i.e., abstract
desirable goal standards), on the one hand (cf. Rokeach, 1973; Schwartz, 1992;
Seligman, Olson, & Zanna, 1996), and theoretical approaches that emphasize
strategic self-regulatory orientations related to specific goals and reference
standards, on the other (cf. Carver & Scheier, 1998; Elliot & Covington, 2001;
Higgins, 1997). In general, it seems very promising to connect research on human
values and approaches that focus on strategic self-regulatory orientations: because
each neglects aspects that figure prominently in the other, both approaches could
fruitfully complement each other and help us develop a more comprehensive
understanding of the role which goals and related mechanisms play in human
motivation. Of note, the Rubicon model of action phases (Heckhausen &
Gollwitzer, 1987) addresses two distinct aspects related to the goal construct:
goal setting and goal striving. Regarding the theoretical assumptions of models
focusing on human values and models focusing on strategic self-regulatory
orientations, it seems that, although both approaches refer to goals as crucial
constructs, they address different phases in the model proposed by Heckhausen
and Gollwitzer (1987, see Figure 1). In the motivational phase, human values
representing abstract desirable goals (Schwartz, 1992) specifically relate to a
person’s goals setting, while self-regulatory orientations as proposed in Higgins’
regulatory focus theory are specifically relevant concerning implementation of
goals in the so called volitional phases. Furthermore, value models largely neglect
the fact that different strategies can be applied to attain a certain goal or end
state, instead they emphasize the transsituationally stable character of abstract
and general goal standards. In contrast, approaches focusing on goals and related
Intention
Deactivation
Intention
Realisation
Intention
Initiation
Intention
Formation
Volition
(preactional)
Motivation
(predecisional
)
Motivation
(postactional)
Volition
(actional)
Evaluation
Action
Planning
Deliberation
Figure 1. Rubicon model of action phases
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strategic self-regulatory mechanisms highlight the idea that individuals can
engage in fundamentally different strategies and apply distinct means to attain
certain goals. In addition, most self-regulatory approaches explicitly state that
situational influences can have a profound effect on motivational mechanisms,
thus highlighting the context dependency of goal-related processes and the
motivational orientations of individuals. In view of this differential emphasis
on specific aspects, it seems imperative and fruitful to work on integrating both
perspectives to establish a comprehensive understanding of human motivation.
However, to date there has been no systematic attempt to establish a
connection between them. Although some researchers recently discussed possible
relations between values and self-regulatory orientations on the theoretical level
(cf. Kark & van Dijk, 2007; Rohan & Zanna, 1996), so far there is hardly any
empirical evidence that bolsters the theoretical arguments put forth in these
contributions. The only exception is a contribution by Leikas, Lönnqvist,
Verkasalo, and Lindeman (2008) who found initial evidence in respect to relations
between self-regulatory orientations and human values. However, this initial
evidence obtained in a single study does not allow strong conclusions regarding
the relation for several reasons. First, Leikas et al. (2008) made use of a specific
measure of regulatory focus (the regulatory focus questionnaire introduced by
Higgins et al., 2001) which asks respondents to report on their self-regulatory
orientations and behaviors in the past. Accordingly, it may be questioned whether
this instrument is validly assessing individuals’ current habitual regulatory focus.
Other measures are currently available that have better psychometric properties
and are bolstered by stronger evidence regarding construct validity than the
regulatory focus questionnaire (e.g. the scales developed by Lockwood, Jordan,
& Kunda, 2002; or the scale introduced by Keller and Bless, 2008; a recent
review addressing the available self-report measures of regulatory focus clearly
supports this notion; cf. Ineichen, Florack, Keller, & Leder, 2010). Second,
Leikas et al. (2008) made use of one specific measure of human values (the
Portrait Value Questionnaire developed by Schwartz et al., 2001). It remains
to be established whether the relation between self-regulatory orientations and
human values can be replicated with the more widely used Schwartz Value
Survey (Schwartz, 1992). Besides, Leikas et al. (2008) did not report findings
referring to the relation between regulatory foci and the higher order dimensions
of human values, that is, the openness-conservation dimension and the self-
enhancement-self-transcendence dimension. Overall, the findings by Leikas et
al. (2008) provide initial evidence. However, to obtain a broader picture of the
relation between human values and regulatory foci, it is worthwhile to examine
the relation using different, but widely used instruments with good psychometric
properties, and to extend the analysis to the relation between regulatory foci and
the higher order dimensions of human values.
The present article makes the attempt to establish a connection between
the two camps by focusing on two particularly prominent theoretical models:
(a) the Schwartz value model (Schwartz, 1992), and (b) regulatory focus theory
(Higgins, 1997). The basic propositions of these two theoretical frameworks
will be discussed in the next sections, followed by a discussion of how the two
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perspectives and the core constructs proposed in both models can be related to
each other.
The Schwartz Value Model
According to Schwartz (1992), values can be defined as transsituationally
stable cognitive representations of desirable abstract goals that serve as guiding
principles in people’s lives (see also Rokeach, 1973). Like needs, motives, and
goals, values are conceptualized as constructs that motivate actions. Values are
inherently positive and reflect goals that are connected to desirable end states
(e.g., achievement, security, stimulation). In this respect, values differ from
needs, motives, and goals, which can be related to negative reference points and
standards (e.g., losses, failures, and mistakes).
According to the Schwartz value model, 10 motivationally distinct values
can be differentiated (Schwartz, 1992; see Table 1 for definitions of the types of
values). The model holds that these values are structurally ordered, especially
that a distinct structure of relations among these values can be identified, which
reflects motivational opposites and compatibilities. As depicted in Figure 2, self-
enhancement values (power and achievement) are conceptualized as opposite
to and hence in conflict with self-transcendence values (universalism and
benevolence). Moreover, conservation values (conformity, tradition, and security)
are conceptualized as in conflict with openness to change values (stimulation
and self-direction). According to the model, hedonism values are to some extent
multifaceted in that they share elements of both openness and self-enhancement.
In essence, the value model posits that two basic bipolar dimensions structure the
value system: One dimension with self-enhancement and self-transcendence as end
poles, and one dimension with conservation and openness to change as end poles.
Figure 2. The structural relations among the 10 value constructs and four higher order values
Stimulation
Self-Direction Universalism
Benevolence
Conformity
Tradition
Security
Power
Achievement
Hedonism
Self-
Enhancement
Self-
Transcendence
Conservation
Openness to
Change
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Table 1
Definitions of the 10 basic values in terms of their goals and sample items
Value and related motivational goal
Sample items used in the Schwartz Value
Questionnaire (Sample 1)/ the PVQ
(Sample 2, 3 & 4)
Power. Social status and prestige, control or
dominance over people and resources.
Social power (control over others, dominance) /
He likes to be in charge and tell others what to do.
He wants people to do what he says.
Achievement. Personal success through
demonstrating competence according to
social standards.
Capable (competent, effective, efficient) /
Being very successful is important to him. He likes
to stand out and to impress other people.
Hedonism. Pleasure and sensory
gratification for oneself.
Enjoying life (enjoying food, sex, leisure etc.) /
He really wants to enjoy life. Having a good time
is very important to him.
Stimulation. Excitement, novelty, and
challenge in life.
An exciting life (stimulating experiences) /
He looks for adventures and likes to take risks. He
wants to have an exciting life.
Self-direction. Independent thinking and
action-choosing, creating, exploring.
Independent (self-reliant, self-sufficient) /
It is important to him to make his own decisions
about what he does. He likes to be free and not
depend on others.
Universalism. Understanding, appreciation,
tolerance, and protection for the welfare of
all people and for nature.
Equality (equal opportunity for all) /
He thinks it is important that every person in the
world should be treated equally. He wants justice
for everybody, even for people he doesn’t know.
Benevolence. Preservation and enhancement
of the welfare of people with whom one is
in frequent personal contact.
Helpful (working for the welfare of others) /
He always wants to help the people who are close
to him. It’s very important to him to care for the
people he knows and likes.
Tradition. Respect, commitment, and
acceptance of the customs and ideas that
traditional culture or religion provide the
self.
Respect for tradition (preservation of time-honored
customs)
He thinks it is important to do things the way he
learned from his family. He wants to follow their
customs and traditions.
Conformity. Restraint of actions,
inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or
harm others and violate social expectations
or norms.
Obedient (dutiful, meeting obligations) /
He believes that people should do what they’re
told. He thinks people should follow rules at all
times, even when no one is watching.
Security. Safety, harmony, and stability of
society, of relationships, and of self.
National security (protection of my nation from
enemies) /
The safety of his country is very important to him.
He wants his country to be safe from its enemies.
Research on the Schwartz value model revealed a distinct value hierarchy
that is strikingly robust cross-culturally (Schwartz & Bardi, 2001). Around the
globe, benevolence represents the single most important value (followed by
self-direction and universalism), and power represents the least important value
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(tradition and stimulation are consistently ranked only slightly higher in the value
hierarchy). Thus, there is a high level of cross-cultural agreement regarding the
relative importance of the different values (while absolute importance levels
vary considerably across societies).
Regulatory Focus Theory
RFT represents a classic self-regulatory approach to the study of
human motivation assuming that human behavior is heavily influenced by the
standards and reference points that are salient and relevant in a given situation
or chronically accessible in the individual’s mind (cf. Keller, 2008). Probably
the most characteristic feature of RFT is that this model goes beyond the
basic hedonic principle according to which individuals approach pleasure and
avoid pain. Specifically, Higgins (1997; 1998) argued that it is necessary to
acknowledge that there are different types of pleasure and related positive end-
states (e.g., safety and security versus personal growth and nurturance), and also
different types of pain (e.g., losses and uncertainty versus non-gains, omissions,
and disappointments), which are related to distinct self-regulatory principles and
mechanisms. In essence, RFT holds that it is necessary to distinguish between
two different types of positive and negative reference points (or input factors)
that are conceptualized as triggers of specific self-regulatory mechanisms and of
related cognitive, affective, and behavioral mechanisms. That is, RFT specifies
distinct input factors as well as distinct output factors related to two basic modes
of self-regulation: Promotion-focused and prevention-focused self-regulation.
The input factors related to promotion-focused self-regulation are
nurturance needs (personal development, self-actualization, and growth),
reflecting a concern with accomplishment and advancement, personal ideals,
and maximal goals as relevant standards, as well as gains as relevant outcomes.
In contrast, the input factors related to prevention-focused self-regulation are
safety and security needs, oughts (duties, responsibilities, and obligations), and
minimal goals as relevant standards, as well as losses as relevant outcomes.
It is important to note that the input factors do not reflect a valence
dimension such that promotion (prevention) input factors are inherently positive
(negative) (Higgins, 1997; 1998). One of the distinct characteristics of RFT is
that this approach moves beyond the focus on sheer valence reflected in the
classic approach-avoidance duality which holds that approach (avoidance) is
always related to positive (negative) reference points. Thus, rather than simply
differentiating positive and negative input factors (i.e., different reference points
or end-states), Higgins emphasized different kinds of desired end-states and
needs (e.g., nurturance and security; gain and non-loss). As is evident, several
of the proposed (and empirically documented) input factors that elicit the
prevention focus are positive in nature (e.g., safety and security). It is therefore
important to keep in mind that the input factors are not inherently positive in
case of promotion and negative in case of prevention.
The output factors reflecting the consequences of the activation of
the promotion-focused type of self-regulation have a special sensitivity to
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the presence or absence of positive events or outcomes and related cues, to
eagerness and ambition as strategic orientation (i.e., a special tendency to insure
hits and to insure against errors of omission), and to cheerfulness-dejection
emotions. The activation of a prevention focus is associated with a sensitivity to
the presence or absence of negative outcomes, with vigilance as strategic means
(i.e., a special tendency to ensure correct rejections and protecting against errors
of commission), with risk aversion, and with quiescence-agitation emotions.
Numerous studies have supported these core assumptions (see Higgins, 1998;
Higgins & Spiegel, 2004).
Note that both modes of self-regulation proposed in RFT are conceptualized
as orthogonal, (i.e., independent) dimensions of self-regulation. That is,
promotion– and prevention-focused self-regulation do not represent opposite
end poles of one general dimension of self-regulation. Previous research has
supported the assumption of independence showing that measures of individual
differences in promotion– and prevention-focused self-regulatory orientations
were only slightly correlated (cf. Lockwood et al., 2002; Lockwood, Sadler,
Fyman, & Tuck, 2004) or virtually uncorrelated (cf. Higgins et al., 2001; Keller,
2008; Keller & Bless, 2008; Keller, Mayo, Greifeneder, & Pfattheicher, 2015;
Lockwood, Marshall, & Sadler, 2005; Sassenberg, Jonas, Shah, & Brazy, 2006;
Uskul, Keller, & Oyserman, 2008). Regarding possible relations with Schwartz
human values, this implies that opposing relations of the two regulatory foci with
other constructs are in general not more likely to be observed than other patterns
of relations. That is, when we expect or observe a positive relation between
promotion-focused self-regulation and a certain construct, this has no compelling
implications with respect to the expected relation between prevention-focused
self-regulation and the specific construct. It is important to keep this in mind
when addressing the possible relations between the two modes of self-regulation
and human values.
The Relation Between Human Values and Self-Regulatory Orientations
Given that the Schwartz value model as well as RFT emphasize that
individuals are strongly influenced by goal standards, it seems that one would
most likely find significant relations between distinct human values proposed in
the Schwartz value model and the specific self-regulatory orientations put forth
in RFT. Note that values can be conceptualized as ideals or oughts and hence
as guides for self-regulation (cf., Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, & Knafo, 2002). Of
course, the crucial question is to understand which of the 10 basic values are
related to which self-regulatory orientation.
As briefly mentioned above, some authors have already discussed the
relation between regulatory focus and human values. Rohan and Zanna (1996)
speculated that prevention-focused individuals might place high priorities
on conformity, tradition, and security, reflecting a resistance to change, while
promotion-focused individuals might place high priorities on self-direction
and stimulation values, reflecting an openness to change. Kark and van Dijk
(2007) made a similar argument proposing that there should be a positive
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relation between leaders’ prevention focus and values of conservation as well
as a positive relation between leaders’ promotion focus and values of openness
to change. Note that both contributions proposed opposing relations of the two
self-regulatory foci with only one of the two higher order value dimensions (i.e.,
the conservation-openness dimension).
Given the orthogonality of the two foci, it does not seem reasonable to
assume that both foci are strongly related to opposing end poles of the same
dimension in the value system (e.g., openness to change versus conservation).
Although such a pattern is logically possible it would reflect an underlying
opposing relation between the two constructs. Based on previous research, it
seems more plausible to assume that each of the two modes of self-regulation
is (primarily) related to one of the two higher order value dimensions in the
Schwartz value model. This assumption is meaningful also in view of the
specific nature of the respective values and their underlying goal standards.
Prevention focus and the conservation−openness value dimension. It
seems most plausible to assume that the prevention focus is positively related
to conservation values (security, conformity, tradition), and negatively related
to the conflicting values, namely stimulation and self-direction (openness to
change values). Previous research (cf. Uskul et al., 2008) shows that prevention
focus scale scores are significantly negatively correlated with sensation seeking
(as assessed with the scale designed by Zuckerman, 1994), which represents
a proxy measure of stimulation. This finding supports the proposed negative
relation between the prevention focus and the conservation-openness dimension,
since stimulation is one core element of openness to change. Moreover, previous
research has revealed a positive relation between prevention-focused self-
regulation and collectivism (or interdependence; cf. Lee, Aaker, & Gardner,
2000; Lockwood et al., 2005). Given that collectivism reflects (a) a concern
with social norms, responsibilities and obligations, as well as (b) an appreciation
for traditions and shared cultural customs (Markus & Kitayama, 1991) two
core elements of conservation values – the observed positive relation between
prevention focus and collectivism supports the proposed positive relation between
prevention focus and conservation values. Finally, previous theorizing (Jost,
Glaser, Kruglanski, & Sulloway, 2003) and research (Liberman, Idson, Camacho,
& Higgins, 1999) support the proposed negative relation between prevention
and openness to change. Specifically, Jost and colleagues (2003) argued that
prevention-focused individuals should favor stability over change, because
stability entails predictability and hence psychological security. Supporting this
notion, Liberman and colleagues (1999) found that participants in a prevention
focus (a) were particularly inclined to resume an interrupted task rather than
do a substitute task, and (b) exhibited a reluctance to exchange objects in their
possession. Thus, there is good reason to assume a negative relation between
prevention-focused self-regulatory tendencies and human values, reflecting
openness to change, as well as a positive relation between prevention-focused
self-regulatory tendencies and human values, reflecting conservation (resistance
to change).
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Promotion focus and the self-enhancement−self-transcendence value
dimension. It seems plausible to assume that the promotion focus is positively
related to self-enhancement values (power and achievement), and negatively related
to the conflicting values, namely benevolence and universalism (self-transcendence
values). Keltner, Gruenfeld, and Anderson (2003) documented that power is related
to self-regulatory strategies that are promotion-focused in character. This supports
the assumption that promotion-focused self-regulatory tendencies are most likely
related to power values, which are part of the self-enhancement dimension. In line
with this argument, Sassenberg et al. (2006) reported evidence indicating that high
power groups are more valued by individuals in a promotion focus. Related to
the power aspect of promotion-focused self-regulation, it is important to note that
concern with prestige, status, power, and dominance is largely incompatible with
self-transcendence values. For example, recent research by Guimond, Dambrun,
Michinov, and Duarte (2003) revealed that individuals in powerful and prestigious
hierarchical positions scored particularly high on a measure of social dominance
orientation (SDO) and were particularly prejudiced against ethnic minorities. It
is evident that SDO and prejudice represent constructs that are oppositional to
benevolence and particularly universalism (reflecting a concern with all people’s
welfare, not only the in-group’s welfare). In parallel, Cohrs and colleagues (2005)
reported on a substantial relation between SDO and the power value in the Schwartz
value model. In combination with the observed positive relation between power
and the promotion focus discussed above, these considerations suggest that it seems
plausible to expect a negative relation between promotion-focused self-regulatory
tendencies and self-transcendence values. Finally, previous research has revealed
a positive relation between promotion focus and individualism (or independence;
cf. Lee et al., 2000; Lockwood et al., 2005). Given that individualism reflects (a) a
concern with personal success and achievement, as well as (b) the desire to stand
out and distinguish oneself from others (Markus & Kitayama, 1991) – two core
elements of self-enhancement values – the observed positive relation between
promotion-focused self-regulation and individualism supports the proposed positive
relation between the promotion focus and self-enhancement values.
Based on the theoretical ideas (e.g. Kark & van Dijk, 2007; Rohan &
Zanna, 1996) assuming that promotion-focused individuals are likely to cherish
stimulation and self-direction, one may also expect to find that promotion-
focused self-regulation is positively related to openness to change and negatively
related to conservation (following the logic of the circular structure of the value
system). If this turned out to be true, it would support the assumption that
promotion-focused self-regulation is more complex in terms of its relations to
the components of the value system.
The empirical studies reported below were designed to test the relations
between regulatory foci and human values. Previous analyses of the value
system mostly made use of statistical procedures (multidimensional scaling;
cf. Schwartz & Bilsky, 1987; Schwartz et al., 2001) to test the structure of
the value system without reference to external criteria (although some studies
involved external criteria, cf. Barnea & Schwartz, 1998; Sagiv & Schwartz,
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1995; Schwartz, 1996; Schwartz. & Huismans, 1995). Conversely, the present
study assessed the structural relations between human values and regulatory
orientations as external criteria, hence offering a valuable contribution to the
ongoing assessment of the structural features of human values. If the two-
dimensional structure actually holds true, we should find correlations of the
relevant regulatory focus dimension with the measure of values representing
the two end poles of the respective value dimension, revealing opposite signs
(i.e., positive correlation of the prevention focus with conservation and negative
correlation with openness; positive correlation of the promotion focus with self-
enhancement and negative correlation with self-transcendence).
In addition, the study tests basic propositions entailed in RFT regarding
the relation of both styles of self-regulation to a set of distinct goal standards
(security and conformity as well as self-actualization and personal growth).
An empirical documentation of the proposed relations would bolster these
fundamental assumptions of RFT.
Furthermore, we use different instruments to measure human values and
regulatory-focus orientations, therefore testing whether the proposed relation
between self-regulatory orientations and human values can be replicated. Going
beyond Leikas et al. (2008), we are also focusing on the relation between the
regulatory focus strategies and the higher order dimensions of human values.
Considering that each of the ten values covers rather specific goal constructs, it
seems valuable to investigate which higher order dimension is related to which
regulatory focus orientation.
Method
Participants and Procedure
Overall, we analyzed the data of 647 German participants (313 men; Mage = 21.9
years) to investigate the relation between self-regulatory orientations and human values. Data
collection took place in four phases over the course of 6 years. Therefore, the results reported
below were split into four samples. The first sample consisted of 188 undergraduate students
(91 men; Mage = 22.5 years), the second sample of 298 undergraduate students (170 men;
Mage = 23 years). The third sample consisted of 60 (37 men; Mage = 21.6 years), the fourth
sample of 101 undergraduate students (15 men; Mage = 20.4 years)1. Participants completed
a package of questionnaires including measures of several different traits and constructs, and
received 2 – 3 EUR as compensation. The data were collected in the lab using paper-pencil
questionnaires (Sample 1 & 2) and online using a survey software, i.e. Unipark (Sample 3
& 4). Results reported below focus on the instruments designed to measure the constructs
relevant in the present context (human values and self-regulatory orientations).
Instruments
Regulatory focus. In all samples, chronic regulatory focus was assessed with a German
version (Keller, 2008) of the Regulatory Focus Questionnaire introduced by Lockwood et
al. (2002)2, which includes nine items intended to measure promotion and prevention,
1 The raw data used in this study is available under https://www.uni-ulm.de/in/psy-soz/
forschung/forschung/open-science-data-download-options/
2 Note that Summerville and Roese (2008) critically discussed the instrument developed by
Lockwood et al. (2002). However, this critique – which basically focuses on the fact that
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respectively. A prevention focus sample item reads “I often worry that I will fail to accomplish
my academic goals,” and a promotion focus sample item reads “I often think about the person
I would ideally like to be in the future.” Responses were given on 7-point rating scales with
higher values indicating greater agreement with the statement. In each sample, both scales
were reliable with Cronbach’s alpha ranging from .66 (Sample 3) to .85 (Sample 4) for the
prevention scale, and Cronbach’s alpha ranging from .74 (Sample 4) to .81 (Sample 2) for the
promotion scale. The two scales were positively correlated (Sample 1: r = .21, p <.01; Sample
2: r = .14, p <.05; Sample 4: r = .25, p <.05), however the correlation in Sample 3 was not
significant (r = .11, n.s.). The positive correlation supports the assumption that both scales
assess a general tendency to regulate the self and indicates that the two regulatory foci do not
represent opposite end-poles of one dimension.
In Sample 3, we included the scale developed by Keller and Bless (2008) as well as
the instrument introduced by Ouschan, Boldero, Kashima, and Wakimoto (2007) as additional
instruments to assess regulatory focus orientation.3 Sample items of the latter instrument read
“To avoid failure, one has to be careful.” (prevention subscale) and “To achieve something,
you need to be optimistic” (promotion subscale). Sample items of the scale designed by Keller
and Bless read “In situations in which my performance is being judged, I often feel tense and
unwell” (prevention subscale) and “In situations in which my performance is being judged, I
often feel the desire to do well.” (promotion subscale). The scales reached acceptable levels of
internal consistency (Ouschan et al. instrument: αPromotion= .72; αPrevention = .82; Keller and Bless
instrument: αPromotion= .61; αPrevention = .84). Importantly, the correlations among the subscales
of the different instruments (see Table 2) revealed substantial correlations among the scales
assessing promotion and prevention, respectively. In contrast, no meaningful correlations
emerged between scales assessing different self-regulatory orientations. This clearly supports
the convergent and discriminant validity of the scales.
the subscales of the Lockwood et al. instrument are correlated with (affective) valence
can be countered on theoretical grounds. Specifically, RFT entails the explicit assumption
that a prevention focus should be associated with a special focus on negative outcomes
and events whereas a promotion focus should be related to a special focus on positive
outcomes and events. Accordingly, valid measures of the degree to which a prevention or
promotion focus is active in a person should reflect the differential sensitivity to positive
and negative outcomes and events. Thus, correlations of a prevention focus scale with
indicators reflecting a sensitivity to negative information (including negative affect) and
correlations of a promotion focus scale with sensitivity to positive information (including
positive affect) actually speak to the validity of the respective scale. It is important to
note that according to RFT the two regulatory foci are related to specific input and output
variables and the argument that the two foci are independent of valence is only true
regarding the input variables. The output variables related to both foci are postulated to be
related to valence in RFT
3 We decided not to include the Regulatory Focus Questionnaire (RFQ; Higgins et al., 2001)
as an alternative measure because recent studies revealed that the validity and reliability
of this instrument may be questioned (cf. Ineichen, Florack, Keller, & Leder, 2010).
Specifically, several aspects of the RFQ seem problematic. First, the scales typically do not
reach high levels of internal consistency. Second, the items included in the scales refer to
past behavior. Accordingly, one may question whether the instrument is actually assessing
current individual differences in the two habitual orientations. Third, the construct validity
of RFQ was found to be modest at best in a series of recent studies whereas the data
clearly supported the construct validity of the Lockwood scales as well as the instrument
developed by Keller and Bless (cf. Ineichen et al., 2010). In addition, Semin et al. (2005)
reported severe reliability problems when using a translated version of the RFQ in the
Netherlands. Our study was conducted in Germany, accordingly we decided not to include
a translated German version of the RFQ, but instead chose other reliable instruments.
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Table 2
Correlations of the Regulatory Focus Scales (Sample 3)
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Lockwood et al. scales
Prevention (1) .11 .57*** -.14 .48*** -.05
Promotion (2) .01 .40** .16 .36**
Keller & Bless scales
Prevention (3) -.10 .38** .13
Promotion (4) -.02 .31*
Ouschan et al. scales
Prevention (5) -.09
Promotion (6)
Note. * p <.05, ** p <.01, ***p <.001
Human values. In Sample 1, the importance that participants attributed to each
of the 10 values as guiding principles in their life was measured with a German version
(Schmitt, Schwartz, Steyer, & Schmitt, 1993) of the Schwartz Value Survey comprising 58
items (Schwartz, 1992). Responses were given on rating scales ranging from (-1) opposed to
my values to (7) of supreme importance (the analyses reported below are based on recoded
scores, that is, scores reflect a scale ranging from 0 to 8; examples of the specific concepts
and items are displayed in Table 1). The internal reliabilities of the value indexes ranged from
tradition .48 to hedonism .77.
In all other samples, we used a German version (Hinz, Brähler, Schmidt, & Albani, 2005)
of the Portrait Values questionnaire (PVQ; Schwartz et al., 2001) to measure the importance
attributed to each of the 10 values. In Sample 2 & 3 a short version with 21 items and in
Sample 4 a long version with 57 items was used. Each item consists of a description of a person
(“portrait”) and respondents rate how similar they see themselves to the portrayed target person
on a scale ranging from (1) very similar to (6) very dissimilar (the analyses reported below are
based on reversed scores, that is, higher scores reflect higher endorsement of the value). Both
instruments, the Schwartz Value Survey and the PVQ, have been extensively used in previous
research and the obtained findings support their validity (cf. Caprara, Schwartz, Capanna,
Vecchione, & Barbaraneli, 2006; Schmidt, Bamberg, Davidov, Herrmann, & Schwartz, 2007;
Schwartz, 1992; 2007; Schwartz & Rubel, 2005; Schwartz et al., 2001).
Although, previous studies support the validity of the short version of the PVQ (cf.
Cohrs et al., 2005; Schwartz & Rubel, 2005, Schwartz, 2006), alpha reliabilities of the value
indexes are typically fairly low because each value measure is based on only two items
(universalism on three items) that cover conceptually broad constructs. In Sample 2 & 3,
some of the value measures were problematic with respect to the internal consistency of
the relevant items. First, the two items designed to assess self-direction were positively
correlated (Sample 2: r = .16, p <.01; Sample 3: r = .26, p <.05). However, in Sample 2
alpha reliability was quite low (Sample 2: αself-direction= .26; Sample 3: αself-direction= .41). Second,
the two items assessing tradition were only positively correlated in Sample 2 (Sample 2: r
= .21, p <.001; Sample 3: r = .19, n.s.), and the alpha reliability for this value measure was
accordingly low (Sample 2: αtradition = .35; Sample 3: αtradition= .31). This should be kept in
mind when interpreting the correlations involving tradition. Reliabilities of the remaining
eight value indexes ranged from Cronbach’s alpha = .26 (self-direction) to .72 (conformity
and stimulation). None such problems emerged in Sample 4, when we used the long version
of the PVQ. Alpha reliabilities of the PVQ indexes ranged from Cronbach’s alpha = .55
(universalism) to .81 (power).
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Results and Discussion
In order to understand which of the foci and which of the values were
particularly strongly endorsed by the participants, we first consider the observed
mean scores on the respective scales. In each sample, the mean promotion
scale score was significantly higher than the prevention scale score (see Table
3). This is consistent with previous findings conducted in Western cultures (cf.
Keller, 2008; Lockwood et al., 2002) and suggests that most participants were
predominantly promotion-focused in their habitual self-regulatory orientation. In
fact, when considering difference scores computed by subtracting prevention
from promotion scale scores – we find that between 75.5% (Sample 3) and
83% (Sample 1) of the participants were predominantly promotion-focused
as indicated by a positive difference score (percentages based on the score
measured with the scale by Lockwood et al., 2002).
Table 3
Mean Scores on the Regulatory Focus Scales
MSD
Sample 1
Lockwood et al. scales Prevention 3.64 1.1
Promotion 4.86 0.89
Difference score 1.22 1.25
% of participants with dominant promotion focus 83
Sample 2
Lockwood et al. scales Prevention 4.16 1.2
Promotion 5.12 0.96
Difference score 0.96 1.4
% of participants with dominant promotion focus 75.5
Sample 3
Lockwood et al. scales Prevention 4.4 0.82
Promotion 5.06 0.79
Difference score 0.66 1.07
% of participants with dominant promotion focus 76.7
Keller & Bless scales Prevention 4.69 0.78
Promotion 5.14 0.74
Difference score 0.45 1.13
% of participants with dominant promotion focus 70.0
Ouschan et al. scales Prevention 4.49 0.91
Promotion 4.93 0.82
Difference score 0.44 1.29
% of participants with dominant promotion focus 62.7
Sample 4
Lockwood et al. scales Prevention 4.19 1.05
Promotion 5.03 0.74
Difference score .84 1.12
% of participants with dominant promotion focus 79.8
Our results are in line with previous research (cf. Schwartz & Bardi,
2001), showing that universalism, benevolence, and self-direction are values
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with high mean scores; whereas power and tradition are the values with low
mean scores (see Figure 3 to 6). It is interesting to note that while a clear
majority of participants was obviously predominantly promotion-focused, we
simultaneously find that two of the values most strongly endorsed (benevolence
and universalism) are postulated to be negatively related to promotion-focused
self-regulation. This suggests that the hierarchical ordering of the two self-
regulatory orientations (promotion and prevention) differs from the hierarchy
observable when considering the set of related values.
Figure 3. Mean scores observed in Schwartz Value Survey in Sample 1.
Note. UN = universalism, BE = benevolence, CO = conformity, TR = tradition, SE = security, PO =
power, AC = achievement, HE = hedonism, ST = stimulation, and SD = self-direction; value scores
were assessed on a scale ranging from -1 to 7 (scores were recoded for the analyses and ranged from
0 to 8).
In Figure 4 we combined the mean scores from Sample 2 with the
mean scores on the PVQ value indices obtained in the European Value
Survey collected in 2006 (German sample; n = 2919; European Social
Survey, 2010). As is evident, the two figures (as well as Figures 5 and 6)
reveal a striking similarity. Specifically, the value hierarchy obtained in our
student samples is almost perfectly parallel to the hierarchy observed in the
representative ESS sample. This speaks against the notion that the validity
of our findings could be questioned due to the non-representative character
of the sample.
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Figure 4. Mean scores observed on the value scales in Sample 2 and the European Social
Survey (2006; German Sample)
Note. UN = universalism, BE = benevolence, CO = conformity, TR = tradition, SE =security, PO =
power, AC = achievement, HE = hedonism, ST = stimulation, and SD = self-direction; value scores were
assessed on a scale ranging from 1 to 6.
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Figure 5. Mean scores observed on PVQ value scales in Sample 3
Note. UN = universalism, BE = benevolence, CO = conformity, TR = tradition, SE = security, PO =
power, AC = achievement, HE = hedonism, ST = stimulation, and SD = self-direction; value scores were
assessed on a scale ranging from 1 to 7.
Figure 6. Mean scores observed on PVQ value scales in Sample 4
Note. UN = universalism, BE = benevolence, CO = conformity, TR = tradition, SE = security, PO =
power, AC = achievement, HE = hedonism, ST = stimulation, and SD = self-direction; value scores were
assessed on a scale ranging from 1 to 6.
gy
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Relations between human values and regulatory focus
In line with the established analytic strategy suggested by Schwartz (1992;
2001; Schwarz & Rubel, 2005), participants’ responses on the value items
were centered by subtracting participants’ mean score across all items from the
respective response on each single value item before we proceeded to assess
the relation between values and regulatory foci. This procedure is known as
the computation of ipsative values (cf. Baron, 1996) and is applied to eliminate
individual differences in the use of response scales. Ipsative scores represent the
relative strength of the construct compared with others in the set, rather than the
absolute score. Ipsative data are amenable to analysis using standard techniques,
and other properties often make them at least as useful as normative data (e.g.,
Gordon, 1976; Saville & Willson, 1991). The correlations between the 10 values
and both scales assessing the two dimensions of self-regulatory orientations
proposed in RFT are reported in Table 4.
Table 4
Correlations of the 10 Types of Values With Regulatory Focus Scales
UN BE CO TR SE PO AC HE ST SD
Sample 1
Prevention -.02 -.04 .16* .15* .15* -.04 -.03 -.18* -.18* -.05
Promotion -.04 -.20** -.002 -.06 .11 .11 .06 .03 -.002 .04
Sample 2
Prevention -.03 .06 .20** .09 .24*** -.06 .10+-.07 -.32*** -.20***
Promotion -.22*** -.12* -.13* -.16** .05 .24*** .19** .004 .09 .10+
Sample 4
Prevention -.006 .05 .16 -.15 .12 .07 .13 -.24** -.16 -.20*
Promotion -.11 -.19+-.21* -.03 -.01 .11 .43*** -.002 .24* -.001
Sample 3
Lookwood
et al. scale
Prevention .11 -.12 .34** .10 .37** .04 -.05 -.19 -.28* -.38**
Promotion -.13 -.12 -.17 -.15 .09 .38** .35** -.17 -.12 .09
Keller &
Bless scale
Prevention .21 .12 .14 .04 .24+-.05 .21 -.19 -.33* -.31*
Promotion -.17 -.28* -.16 .02 -.03 .31* .27* -.16 -.07 .24+
Ouschan et
al. scale
Prevention -.02 .05 .35** .40** .35** .00 .12 -.25+-.49*** -.46***
Promotion -.15 -.12 -.16 -.18 -.07 .11 .27* -.04 .12 .18
Note. Prevention and promotion scores were measured with the Lookwood et al. scale. UN = universalism,
BE = benevolence, CO = conformity, TR = tradition, SE = security, PO = power, AC = achievement, HE
= hedonism, ST = stimulation, and SD = self-direction. + p <.1, * p <.05, ** p <.01, *** p <.001.
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Prevention Focus. As depicted in Table 4, prevention scale scores were
significantly positively related to conformity and security (in Sample 4 the
correlations were positive, but not significant). In Sample 1, prevention scale
scores were also significantly positively related to tradition, however in Sample
2 & 3 the correlation was fairly low and not significant, with the exception
of the instrument designed by Ouschan and colleagues used in Sample 3. In
Sample 4, the correlation was negative, but not significant. The prevention scale
was significantly negatively related to stimulation (except Sample 4), hedonism
(in Sample 1 & 4, in Sample 2 & 3 the negative correlation was not significant),
and self-direction (except for Sample 1). Overall, these findings support the
proposition that prevention-focused self-regulation is related to the conservation-
openness dimension of the value system.
When considering indices representing the higher order values sectors
(averaging across the relevant value scales4) we found that prevention scores
were significantly positively related to the conservation index (except the Keller
& Bless prevention scale in Sample 3), whereas the scale was in each sample
significantly negatively related to the openness index (see Table 5). Moreover,
it is noteworthy that in each sample the prevention scale was uncorrelated with
the second higher order dimension of the value system (self-enhancement-
self-transcendence dimension). The only exception is the modest correlation
of Keller and Bless’ prevention scale with self-transcendence in Sample 3.
These correlational findings indicate (1) that prevention-focused self-regulation
comports with cherishing safety, security, and restraint of actions and impulses
expressed in conservation values, and (2) that prevention-focused self-regulation
stands in opposition to valuing stimulation and self-direction expressed in
openness to change values.
4 The unexpected negative correlation between prevention and tradition observed in Sample
4 led to the exclusion of the tradition value items when computing the higher order
conservation scale scores for Sample 4.
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Table 5
Correlations of the Regulatory Focus Scales with Higher Order Values
Conservation Self-
enhancement
Self-
transcendence Openness
Sample 1
Prevention .23** -.05 -.04 -.17*
Promotion .001 .12+-.14+.02
Sample 2
Prevention .26*** .02 .01 -.33***
Promotion -.12* .27*** -.23*** .11+
Sample 4a
Prevention .19+.12 .03 -.22*
Promotion -.16 .31** -.18* .19+
Sample 3
Lockwood
et al. scales
Prevention .40** -.01 -.01 -.39**
Promotion -.12 .45*** -.16 -.03
Keller &
Bless scale
Prevention .20 .09 .22* -.38**
Promotion -.10 .36** -.29* .08
Ouschan et
al. scale
Prevention .54*** .08 .01 -.57***
Promotion -.20 .23+-.17 .18
Combined
indexes
Prevention .48*** .06 .09 -.56***
Promotion -.19 .46*** -.27* .10
Note. Prevention and promotion scores were measured with Lookwood et al. scale. +p ≤ .1, * p <.05, **
p <.01, *** p <.001. a) The conservation index in Sample 4 consisted only of Conformity and Security,
Tradition was excluded.
Promotion Focus. Table 4 reveals that promotion scale scores
were significantly positively related in each sample to achievement (not
significantly in Sample 1), to power (except for Sample 1 & 4), and in
Sample 4 to stimulation, whereas the scale was in each sample significantly
negatively related to benevolence, in Sample 2 to universalism (the
correlations in all other samples were negative, but not significant in most
cases), to tradition (Sample 2) and in Sample 2 & 4 to conformity. This
provides only partial support for the proposition that promotion-focused self-
regulation is related to the self-enhancement-self-transcendence dimension
of the value system.
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Considering indices representing the higher order values sectors, we find
that in each sample promotion scores were marginally significantly positively
related to the self-enhancement index, whereas the scale was significantly
negatively related to the self-transcendence index (see Table 5).
Moreover, the promotion scale shows modest negative relations to the
conservation-openness dimension. The consistency of the correlation across
three samples (Sample 2, 3 and 4) suggests that there is a reliable modest
negative relation between promotion-focused self-regulation and conservation
values. Note that the relation between the promotion focus scale and the
conservation-openness dimension are in line with the theoretical arguments
reported above (Kark & van Dijk, 2007; Rohan & Zanna, 1996), according to
which the promotion focus should be associated with values reflecting openness.
This relation supports the assumption that this mode of self-regulation may be
multifaceted in terms of the values that are associated with it.
Regression analyses. To test whether the observed associations remain
stable when testing the discriminant association while statistically controlling for
the other kind of self-regulatory orientation, regression analyses were conducted
to examine the relations between the higher order value indices (as criterion)
and the regulatory focus scale scores (as predictors). As depicted in Table 6,
the analyses resulted in (marginally) significant coefficients for all expected
relations.5 Thus, the discriminant associations support the proposed relations
between prevention-focused self-regulation and the conservation-openness
dimension, as well as the relations between promotion-focused self-regulation
and the self-enhancement-self-transcendence dimension.
5 Initial exploratory analyses indicated that participant gender had a meaningful effect with
respect to endorsement of three of the four higher-order value indexes. Accordingly, we
included participant gender in the respective analyses.
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Table 6
Results of regression analyses testing the discriminant associations between focus scales and
human values
Panel 1
Criterion
Predictor Self-Enhancement Self-Transcendence
Sample 1 Lockwood et al. F R2B SE B βFR
2B SE B β
3.08* .05 4.97** .08
Prevention Focus -.04 .05 –.06 -.01 .04 -.02
Promotion Focus .10 .06 .13+-.08 .05 -.13+
Participant Gender .23 .10 .17* -.26 .08 -.24**
Conservation Openness to Change
FR
2B SE B βFR
2B SE B β
5.5** .08 2.88.03
Prevention Focus .14 .04 .25** -.12 .05 -.18*
Promotion Focus -.04 .05 –.06 .05 .06 .06
Participant Gendera.20 .08 .17*
Note. +p <.1; * p <= .05, ** p <.01, ***p <.001; a) participant gender had no meaningful effect in the
analysis with openness as criterion variable (t <1), which is why the variable was eliminated from the
respective analysis (the gender variable was coded 1 for women and 2 for men).
Table 6 (continued)
Panel 2
Criterion
Predictor Self-Enhancement Self-Transcendence
Sample 2 Lockwood et al. F R2B SE B βFR
2B SE B β
11.16*** .07 8.49*** .05
Prevention Focus -.01 .04 -.02 .02 .03 .04
Promotion Focus .21 .04 .27*** -.14 .03 -.24***
Conservation Openness to Change
FR
2B SE B βFR
2B SE B β
14.62* .09 22.17* .13
Prevention Focus .15 .03 .28*** -.21 .03 -.35***
Promotion Focus -.10 .04 -.16** .12 .04 .16**
Note. * p <.05, ** p <.01, ***p <.001.
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Table 6 (continued)
Panel 3
Criterion
Predictor Self-Enhancement Self-Transcendence
Sample 3 Lockwood et al. scales F R2B SE B βFR
2B SE B β
9.72*** .25 2.42 .12
Prevention Focus .07 .15 .05 .00 .09 .00
Promotion Focus .66 .15 .50*** -.16 .09 -.22+
Participant Gendera-.35 .15 -.30*
Conservation Openness to Change
FR
2B SE B βFR
2B SE B β
6.63** .19 3.95+.09
Prevention Focus .565 .15 .44** -.39 .17 -.29*
Promotion Focus -.02 .16 -.02 .17 .17 .13
Note. +p <.07; * p <= .05, ** p <.01, ***p <.001; a) participant gender had no meaningful effect in the
analysis with self-enhancement as criterion variable (t <1), which is why the variable was eliminated from
the respective analysis (the gender variable was coded 1 for women and 2 for men).
Table 6 (continued)
Panel 4
Criterion
Predictor Self-Enhancement Self-Transcendence
Sample 3 Keller & Bless scales F R2B SE B βFR
2B SE B β
3.97* .12 4.31** .19
Prevention Focus .22 .14 .20 .09 .09 .12
Promotion Focus .47 .18 .33* -.24 .10 -.31*
Participant Gendera-.31 .15 -.26*
Conservation Openness to Change
FR
2B SE B βFR
2B SE B β
1.15 .05 3.02+ .1
Prevention Focus .23 .14 .21 -.34 .15 -.31*
Promotion Focus -.06 .19 -.04 .02 .19 .02
Note. +p < .07; * p <= .05, ** p < .01, ***p < .001; a) participant gender had no meaningful effect in the
analysis with self-enhancement, conservation or openness as criterion variable (t < 1), which is why the variable
was eliminated from the respective analysis (the gender variable was coded 1 for women and 2 for men).
Table 6 (continued)
Panel 5
Criterion
Predictor Self-Enhancement Self-Transcendence
Sample 3 Ouschan et al. scales F R2B SE B βFR
2B SE B β
3.95* .12 2.77 .13
Prevention Focus .24 .15 .21 .00 .08 .01
Promotion Focus .39 .16 .31* -.19 .09 -.27*
Participant Gendera-.39 .15 -.33*
Conservation Openness to Change
FR
2B SE B βFR
2B SE B β
11.36*** .29 10.31*** .27
Prevention Focus .61 .13 .44*** -.53 .14 -.45***
Promotion Focus -.02 .15 -.02 .30 .15 .23+
Note. +p <.07; * p <= .05, ** p <.01, ***p <.001; a) participant gender had no meaningful effect in the analysis
with self-enhancement, conservation or openness as criterion variable (t <1), which is why the variable was
eliminated from the respective analysis (the gender variable was coded 1 for women and 2 for men).
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Table 6 (continued)
Panel 6
Criterion
Predictor Self-Enhancement Self-Transcendence
Sample 4 Lockwood et al. F R2B SE B βFR
2B SE B β
8.25*** .20 4.78** .13
Prevention Focus .04 .06 .06 .03 .04 .07
Promotion Focus .28 .09 .30** -.11 .05 -.20*
Participant Gendera.62 .17 .33** -.34 .11 -.30**
ConservationbOpenness to Change
FR
2B SE B βFR
2B SE B β
4.46* .08 6.2** .11
Prevention Focus .12 .05 .25* -.14 .05 -.28**
Promotion Focus -.15 .07 -.22* .18 .07 .26**
Note. +p < .07; * p <= .05, ** p < .01, ***p < .001; a) participant gender had no meaningful effect in
the analysis with conservation or openness as criterion variable (t < 1), which is why the variable was
eliminated from the respective analysis (the gender variable was coded 1 for women and 2 for men). b)
The conservation index in Sample 4 consisted only of Conformity and Security, Tradition was excluded.
General Discussion
The present work was designed to investigate the structure of the relations
between the 10 values proposed in the Schwartz value model and the two basic
modes of self-regulation outlined in RFT. The obtained evidence supports the
assumptions concerning the relation between human values and basic self-
regulatory orientations outlined in the introductory section. In addition, the
results show that the relations can be replicated using different instruments to
measure basic human values and regulatory focus orientations. Results reveal
that prevention-focused self-regulation is positively related to the endorsement
of conservation values (security, conformity), and negatively related to values
reflecting openness to change (stimulation, self-direction). Moreover, promotion-
focused self-regulation was found to be positively related to the endorsement
of self-enhancement values (power, achievement). Promotion-focused self-
regulation was also found to be negatively related to values reflecting self-
transcendence (universalism, benevolence) and (in Sample 2, 3 and 4) more
modestly to conservation values (conformity and tradition). These findings
support the proposed two-dimensional structure of the value system as well as
fundamental assumptions of RFT regarding the characteristics of promotion–
and prevention-focused self-regulation.
It is interesting to note that the present findings are largely parallel to those
reported by Leikas et al. (2008) who observed that the promotion focus scale was
positively related to power as well as achievement values and negatively related
to universalism and tradition. They also found that the prevention focus scale
was positively related to security, conformity as well as tradition values (only
marginally significant) and negatively related to self-direction and stimulation.
As mentioned above, Leikas et al. (2008) did not report findings considering the
relationship with the higher order value sectors; therefore, our results add some
new information to the relation between human values and regulatory focus.
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One particularly relevant aspect of the present findings is that they help us
clarify the different components that are related to prevention– and promotion-
focused self-regulation. Overall, the findings support the notion that prevention-
focused self-regulation is driven by the need for safety and security – which is
reflected in the positive correlation with conservation values. Specifically, the
need for safety and security as a driving force behind prevention-focused self-
regulation could also explain the low correlations between prevention focus and
the tradition value. According to the Schwartz value theory, tradition combined
with conformity and security form the conservation dimension. Conformity
is defined as the inclination to action and security as afocus on the stability
of society, while tradition is defined as following and conserving cultural or
religious customs (Schwartz, 1992). The conceptualization of security and
conformity seems more closely related to the conceptualization of the prevention
focus (i.e. need for safety and security) than tradition as the endorsement of the
tradition value could be influenced by factors (such as religiosity) which are
conceptually not closely related to the prevention focus. In Sample 4 we found
that conservation is only significantly related to prevention when excluding the
tradition value items. Considering the items designed to measure the tradition
value, it becomes apparent that religiosity plays a key role. In the short version
of the PVQ one item measures the self-denial component of tradition and one
item measures the religious component of tradition. Both components reflect a
submission of the self to external factors, but are often not highly inter-correlated
(Schwartz, 2001). That could be an explanation for why we did not find a reliable
relation between the tradition value and prevention focus, but a reliable relation
between other conservation values (i.e., security and conformity) and prevention
focus. In addition, in all samples we found no significant correlation between
security and tradition, and only modest correlations between conformity and
tradition. Moreover, the findings corroborate the notion that prevention-focused
self-regulation is driven by a defensive orientation directed at the maintenance
of the status quo which is reflected in the negative correlation with openness
to change values.
Also, the data indicate that promotion-focused self-regulation is driven by
a need for self-actualization and personal growth – which is reflected in the
positive correlation with self-enhancement values. Interestingly, the correlation
between achievement value and promotion focus was quite high (except for
Sample 1). One reason for that could be the scales used to measure human values.
In Schwartz Value Survey (Sample 1) the achievement items focus on success,
but also on feeling competent and being hard-working, whereas in the PVQ
(Sample 2 and 3) the achievement items refer exclusively on being successful
and admired for own achievements. The PVQ items seem more closely related to
the conceptualization of the promotion focus than the SVS items as people could
also be hard-working to achieve goals related to a prevention focus. In addition,
looking at descriptive data the variance on achievement values was lower in
Sample 1 compared to the other samples. One initial hint that the item content
might have an influence is that only the SVS item “SUCCESSFUL (achieving
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PSIHOLOGIJA, 2017, OnlineFirst, 1–30
goals)” was positively correlated with promotion-focus self-regulation. Finally,
the observed evidence bolsters the argument that promotion-focused self-
regulation is driven by an individualistic orientation of goal pursuit, reflecting a
strive for power, dominance, and status – which is also reflected in the negative
correlation with self-transcendence values (which represent a concern with the
welfare of others). The negative relation between promotion focus and self-
transcendence was not significant in several cases, which could be due to social
desirability issues: Benevolence (caring for others) and universalism (equal
opportunities for all) are highly socially desirable, which is also indicated by a
generally strong endorsement (with little variation in participants’ responses) of
the corresponding items (benevolence and universalism are the values with the
highest mean scores).
In combination, the current findings strongly support the notion entailed
in RFT that the two modes of self-regulation represent largely independent
dimensions.
Interestingly, the (modest) relation between promotion-focused self-
regulation and the openness-conservation dimension of the value system (as
observed in Sample 2 & 4) reveals that this mode of self-regulation may not be
perfectly unidimensional in terms of the values it is associated with. Compared
to the prevention-focused self-regulation – which seems to be unidimensional in
this respect – promotion-focused self-regulation may be better characterized as
multifaceted and more complex in its relation to human values. Considering the
conceptualization of the respective constructs, this relation is not too surprising
as both promotion-focused self-regulation and openness to change values refer
to initiative (taking action) and autonomy.
To obtain a more general picture of the relation between basic human values
and regulatory focus strategies one goal of this study was to provide further
evidence to support the proposed relation between human values and regulatory
focus complementing the work of Leikas et al. (2008) with data obtained with
other widely used instruments. In general, based on our results, we conclude
that our basic proposed assumption – i.e. promotion-focus strategy associated
with the self-enhancement-self-transcendence dimension and prevention-focus
strategy with the openness-conservation dimension – emerge irrespective of
the instruments used. On the level of specific values, some relations differed
in magnitude or were not statistically significant. These differences could be
based on the item content. For example, as mentioned above, in Sample 1 we
used the Schwartz Value Survey and observed some minor peculiarities in the
results, although the overall pattern of relations resembles that found in the other
samples. One reason for the peculiarities could be the formulation and content of
the items. In the SVS participants are presented with keywords associated with
the corresponding value (e.g. OBEDIENT: dutiful, meeting obligations), while
in the PVQ a person is described (e.g. It is important to him to follow the rules
at all times, even if no one is watching) and participants rate how similar they
consider themselves to that person. Therefore, the PVQ items translate human
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values from the abstract goal level into a concrete description of behavior which
is considered a manifestation of the respective value. This difference in the item
formulation might influence the response behavior. Moreover, some items in the
PVQ and items in some regulatory focus instruments have quite similar content
(e.g. mentioning preventing physical harm). Considering the three different
regulatory focus instruments used in Sample 3, overall the relation with higher
order dimensions and the results of the regression analyses are in line with the
proposed relations. However, it is worth noting that some relations were more or
less pronounced depending on the specific instruments used to assess regulatory
foci. We assume that these differences are essentially due to the formulation and
content of certain items. However, we want to emphasize that overall the data
show parallel relations irrespective of the instruments used.
Considering the meaningful relations between the higher order value
dimensions and the two modes of self-regulation proposed in RFT, it is important
to acknowledge the distinctive characteristics of human values and regulatory
foci. Several aspects distinguish human values and self-regulatory orientations.
First, values are conceptualized as transsituationally stable constructs, whereas
self-regulatory orientations are defined as malleable and likely to vary as
a function of situational influences. Second, Schwartz and colleagues (cf.
Schwartz & Bardi, 2001) emphasized that there is a striking cultural invariance
in value hierarchies (note that the endorsement of values differs substantially
across cultures; however, the value hierarchy was found to be largely invariant
across cultures). Specifically, it has been found that security values are more
important than power values in all societies around the world where the
Schwartz value model has been empirically tested (Schwartz & Bardi, 2001).
In contrast, there is a significant cultural variation in the hierarchical ordering
of the two self-regulatory modes. Specifically, prevention-focused information
appears to be more important for behaviour than promotion-focused information
in interdependent cultures, whereas the reverse is true in independent cultures
(cf. Lee et al., 2000; Lockwood et al., 2005; for a similar argument regarding
avoidance versus approach goals, see Elliot, Chirkov, Kim, & Sheldon, 2001).
Based on these findings it seems that desirable goals are quite similar across
cultures, but the key strategies to pursue goals differ between cultures.
Third, the Schwartz value model and RFT differ in the emphasis that is
put on the relevance of abstract desirable end-states versus specific strategies
of goal attainment. One implication of this differential emphasis is that the value
model refers exclusively to standards and end-states that are positive in character,
whereas the goals and standards discussed in RFT represent positive as well as
negative end-states and related strategic means and behavioural orientations.
As briefly mentioned in the introduction, the analysis of the associations
between individual differences in self-regulatory orientations and other
psychological phenomena is particularly worthwhile if one is interested in a better
understanding of the self-regulatory character of the respective psychological
Johannes Keller & Rebekka Kesberg 27
PSIHOLOGIJA, 2017, OnlineFirst, 1–30
phenomena (Carver, 2006). In the present case, it seems fair to conclude that the
reported data provide substantive information with respect to the self-regulatory
character of the human values outlined in the Schwartz value model. Thus,
the fact that the present study provides empirical evidence documenting the
prevention-focused character of conservation values and the promotion-focused
character of self-enhancement values is a meaningful contribution to the field
of research on human values. Following a similar logic, the reported data also
contribute to our understanding of the nature of promotion– and prevention–
focused self-regulation as already discussed above. Furthermore, as mentioned
in the introduction, examining the relation between human values and regulatory
strategies could help to develop a more comprehensive understanding of human
motivation. Both theories focus on specific aspects of human motivation.
However, that does not imply that they are competing theories, instead they
can complement each other. Considering the Rubicon model of action phases
(Heckhausen & Gollwitzer, 1987), human values and regulatory foci refer to
different phases. Values as abstract goals or guidelines are most likely a crucial
element of the predecisional motivational phase when individuals consider
which outcomes they want to achieve. In contrast, self-regulatory orientations
are most relevant in the volition phases, since they are important concerning
volitional goal striving processes. To sum up, while the Schwartz value model
refers to what people want to achieve in life, but not to how to achieve them, RFT
refers to how people achieve their goals, but not what their goals are. Therefore,
integrating both theories contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of
human motivation.
Values and Regulatory Fit
An interesting implication of the present findings comes to mind when
considering the concept of “regulatory fit” proposed in RFT (Shah, Higgins, &
Friedman, 1998; Higgins, 2000). Regulatory fit has been defined as a state where
individuals engage in a behavior under conditions where their goal orientation
is sustained by the manner of their goal pursuit (e.g., when available means and
strategies fit with the relevant goal). According to the regulatory fit hypothesis,
motivation and performance are greater when the dispositional goal orientation,
the situationally relevant goal, task incentives, and means of goal attainment
all share the same regulatory focus than when they do not. Taking into account
that human values represent abstract goals (Schwartz, 1992) and given that these
abstract goals are systematically related to specific self-regulatory orientations,
a set of intriguing hypotheses can be derived with respect to the regulatory fit
principle. For example, one can argue that individuals who pursue values that fit
their regulatory focus should feel better and more motivated and are probably
more successful in attaining the goals related to the relevant values – compared
to individuals who pursue values that do not fit their regulatory focus. Given
the cross-cultural differences in habitual self-regulatory orientations, these
implications seem particularly intriguing in the intercultural context.
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Conclusion
In sum, the current findings contribute to our understanding of self-
regulatory orientations and human values and enrich our knowledge of both
of these basic motivational constructs. As such, the current study opens a new
avenue of research for studying human motivation that incorporates the crucial
impact of self-regulatory orientations and human values. Given the observed
relations between these basic constructs it seems most promising to address
their interplay in determining individuals’ motivation to engage and persist in
activities in a next generation of research.
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REVISION RECEIVED 15.02.2017.
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  • ... Such rational is in line with studies evidencing a positive link between the promotion focus orientation and the endorsement of personal values of achievement defined by (Keller & Kesberg, 2017;Leikas, Lönnqvist, Verkasalo, & Lindeman, 2009;Schwartz, 1992). Again, this reasoning might seem trivial, yet it only illustrates how promotion focus is structurally embedded and dominant in the western model of education. ...
    ... Finally, in Studies 5, 6 and 7, academic achievement was measured using students' grades obtained through final exams passed at the end of academic semesters in social psychology classes. 12 Computing the difference score is the standard approach to analyze data relative to regulatory focus (e.g., Keller & Bless, 2006; Study 2; Keller & Kesberg, 2017;Lockwood, Jordan, & Kunda, 2002;Study 3;Righetti, Finkenauer, & Rusbult, 2011;Santelli, Ward, & Eaton, 2009) and relies on both theoretical and empirical justifications. Theoretically, the difference score allows monitoring individuals' dominant regulatory focus that determines the propensity toward either promotion or prevention, regardless of strength of each regulatory focus orientation (see Righetti et al., 2011). ...
    ... Pushing this reasoning to the extremum, one could dear to speculate that achievement goal theory, taken literally, is valid only among populations that present specific patterns of cultural features, for instance a high inclination toward promotion regulatory focus, or other cultural variables that could covary along, such as a high propensity to individualism and selfenhancement values (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2001;Keller & Kesberg, 2017;Schwartz, 1992). It is a common fact that many psychological theories assume psychological universalism according to which that most fundamental cognitive and affective processes are shared across the globe (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010a;Jost & Kruglanski, 2002;Norenzayan & Heine, 2005) and are tested accordingly most of the time on WEIRD participants, coming from Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic societies (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010b;Sears, 1986). ...
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