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In pursuit of progress: Promotion motivation and risk preference in the domain of gains


Journal of Personality and Social Psychology


Organisational Behaviour

Publication Year



This article examines the role of promotion motivation in decision making in the domain of gains. Using a stock investment paradigm in which individuals believed that they were making decisions that were real and consequential, we found that promotion motivation, and not prevention motivation, predicted the likelihood of switching between risky and conservative choices in the domain of gains. Promotion-focused participants chose a relatively risky option when their stock portfolio remained unchanged (stuck at 0, the status quo) but switched to a relatively conservative option when they had just experienced a large gain (Studies 1–4), both when regulatory focus was measured (Study 1) and manipulated (Studies 2–4). Studies in which progress was manipulated (Study 3) and measured (Study 4) provided evidence that it is perceptions of progress that underlie this tactical switch in risk preferences within the promotion system. We discuss the implications of these findings for decision making and the role of progress in self-regulation.

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