Exploring the Affect and Regulatory Focus Interaction in Self-regulatory Failure
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Self-regulation involves an ongoing struggle between two op-posing psychological forces, desire and will-power, with self-reg- ulatory failure occurs when the forces of desire exceed that of the will-power (Hoch and Loewenstein 1991). Self-regulatory failure is linked with social problems such as alcoholism, smoking, drug abuse, bankruptcies, debt, crime, domestic violence, school failure, teenage pregnancies and unsafe sex (Baumeister and Heatherton 1996) as well as impulse buying, compulsive shopping and over- spending (Vohs 2006; Vohs and Faber 2007), overeating and obesity, and rash financial decisions (Howlett, Kees, and Kemp 2008) in con-sumer research. Prior research (e.g., Dholakia et al. 2006; Sengupta and Zhou 2007) focuses on the role of promotion focus in self-regulatory fail- ure without exploring how prevention focus also may or may not lead to self-regulatory failure (Gap 1). Current literature also ne- glects the way different types of affect (positive versus negative) may interact with the promotion and prevention system in the deci- sion making process (Gap 2). Finally, there is hardly any research on how the interaction between affect and regulatory focus may lead to self-regulatory failure in the domain of both affective consumer behavior and cognitive choice contexts (Gap 3). We address all these gaps in this paper. First, we hypothesize an interaction between affect and regulatory focus with promotion focus combined with positive affect resulting in greater self-regula-tory failure than with negative affect (H1), and prevention focus with negative affect leading to greater self-regulatory failure than with positive affect (H2). Next, we posit that consumers would be willing to pay a higher price for a new product under positive (vs. negative) affect (H3a) and promotion (vs. prevention) focus (H3b), and the additional amount that the consumers would be willing to pay for a new product under positive (vs. negative) affect would be greater for consumers with promotion (vs. prevention) focus (H3c). We then use resource depletion theory to argue that consumers would be willing to pay a higher price for a new product under high (vs. low) cognitive load (H4a), and the additional amount that the consumers with promotion focus would be willing to pay for a new product under the influence of positive (vs. negative) affect (as hy- pothesized in H3c) would be significantly greater, when consumers are exposed to high (vs. low) cognitive load (H4b). Finally, we posit that there would be no significant difference in the amount that the consumers with prevention focus would be willing to pay for a new product under the influence of positive (vs. negative) affect, when exposed to high (vs. low) cognitive load. We use our third study to test hypotheses H3a-H3c and H4a-H4c using purchase of a new brand of MP3 player.
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