Research on regulatory focus has established a regulatory matching effect: The persuasiveness of a message is enhanced when regulatory orientations of message and perceiver match (i.e., both are promotion or both are prevention). We report evidence that varying the hedonic outcome reverses this effect. We manipulated hedonic outcome by explicitly stating pleasurable versus painful outcomes as part of the message frame as well as by priming perceivers to focus on either pleasurable or painful outcomes. When both message and perceiver were focused on pleasurable outcomes, we replicated the regulatory matching effect. However, the matching effect reversed when the hedonic outcome of the message was opposed to that of the perceiver (i.e., one was pleasurable and the other painful). Under these conditions, messages that mismatched the perceivers' regulatory orientation were more persuasive (i.e., promotion message for a prevention oriented perceiver or vice versa). We also examined the persuasion effects when both message and perceiver were focused on painful outcomes and found that the regulatory matching effect re-emerged. The reversal of the regulatory matching effect by hedonic outcome strongly suggests that hedonic motives (approach of pleasure vs. avoidance of pain) and regulatory focus motives are distinct constructs. This is important because contrary to theoretical statements these constructs have often been confounded.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science