The Interplay between Self-Construal and Regulatory Focus in Decision Making under Risk and Uncertainty
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This dissertation examined the motivational and cultural underpinnings of financial decision making under risk and uncertainty, using regulatory fit theory, self-regulatory focus theory, self-construal theory, and prospect theory as guiding frameworks. Based on a comprehensive review of the literature, a theoretical model was proposed that sought to resolve existing conceptual questions and debates. Central predictions of the model were the differential implications of two different types of fit, i.e., incidental fit and integral fit, for processing mode (intuitive versus systematic), motivational experiences (feeling right versus task engagement) as well as use of different types of information (emotions versus objective factors). Across two online and offline experiments, incidental fit was operationalized as fit between self-construals and self-regulatory focus, and integral fit as fit between self-regulatory focus and decision context. Specifically, Study 1 used a 2 (self-construal: independent versus interdependent) x 2 (self-regulatory focus: promotion versus prevention) x 2 (decision context: gain versus loss versus mixed-gamble) design and required participants to work on hypothetical scenarios, which assessed changes in risk seeking, risk aversion and loss aversion separately. Study 2 used a 2 (self-construal) x 2 (self-regulatory focus) design but relied on the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART), in which participants earned real money.Results showed that incidental fit (fit between self-construal and regulatory focus), but not integral fit (fit between decision context and regulatory focus) influenced the processing mode and the type of factors taken into account in financial decision making under risk and uncertainty. Study 1 revealed that incidental fit resulted in more risk-neutral choices, which maximize monetary outcome. However, systematic processing was not consistently related to better decision outcomes, suggesting that incidental fit between independent self-construals and promotion focus, and incidental fit between interdependent self-construals and prevention focus improves decision making independent of processing mode. Results also replicated and extended previous research in that decision context (loss versus gain) influenced risk-taking, motivational experiences, and processing.The discussion explored different theoretical explanations of fit effects, and argued that they are likely the result of increased processing fluency. In light of the experimental findings, a revised model is proposed.