Regulatory focus and interdependent economic decision-making

Jun Gu*, Vanessa K. Bohns, Geoffrey J. Leonardelli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)


Traditional theories of self-interest cannot predict when individuals pursue relative and absolute economic outcomes in interdependent decision-making, but we argue that regulatory focus (Higgins, 1997) can. We propose that a concern with security (prevention focus) motivates concerns with social status, leading to the regulation of relative economic outcomes, but a concern with growth (promotion focus) motivates the maximization of opportunities, leading to a focus on absolute outcomes. Two studies supported our predictions; regardless of prosocial or proself motivations, a promotion focus yielded greater concern with absolute outcomes, but a prevention focus yielded greater concern with relative outcomes. Also, Study 3 revealed that a prevention focus led to a greater rejection of a negative relative but positive absolute outcome in an ultimatum game because of concerns with status. This research reveals that apparently opposing orientations to interdependence - equality and relative gain - serve the same self-regulatory purpose: the establishment of security.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-698
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Absolute value
  • Economic outcome
  • Interdependence
  • Regulatory focus
  • Relative value
  • Social orientation

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