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Is regulatory focus related to minimal and maximal standards? Depends on how you ask!

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European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on


Regulatory focus theory suggests that hopes and aspirations (promotion focus) function like maximal goals, whereas duties and responsibilities (prevention focus) function like minimal goals (Brendl & Higgins, 1996). However, past research has not always reliably found such a link between regulatory focus and maximal/minimal goals or standards. In the present research, we hypothesised that this inconsistency can be explained, at least in part, by conceptual differences resulting in the use of different, specific wording. In four studies, we compared wording in terms of the relative magnitude of the goals to wording in terms of their absolute versus gradual perception. Results showed that regulatory focus (manipulated or measured) consistently relates to maximal versus minimal standards framed as goals of different magnitudes, but not to the goals framed according to an absolute/gradual perception. Implication of the results for regulatory focus research is discussed.