Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Susan Jung Grant

Second Advisor

John Lynch

Third Advisor

Lawrence Williams

Fourth Advisor

Gary McClelland

Fifth Advisor

Amar Cheema


We extend the literature on regulatory fit theory (Higgins 2000) by testing whether individuals who experience regulatory fit engage in facilitated processing. Research suggests that regulatory fit results in a state of "feeling right" about both the outcome and the decision process. When one's regulatory focus is sustained during goal pursuit, participants show greater willingness to pay for objects, provide higher brand attitude ratings (Avnet and Higgins 2006; Lee, Keller, and Sternthal 2010), and exhibit increased engagement in tasks (Higgins 2000). Prior work has been limited to these types of subjective assessments and has not examined information-processing implications.

We find an asymmetry such that greater processing occurs for states of prevention fit but not states of promotion fit. In four studies we use an investment decision-making context to test whether participants who experience regulatory fit discriminate between strong and weak positive arguments (Experiment 1) and strong and weak negative arguments (Experiment 2). We find that individuals who experience prevention fit discriminate between strong and weak arguments for both positive and negative information. Interestingly, our finding that prevention fit participants discern argument strength in the domain of positive information is not directly predicted by theorizing on regulatory focus. Additionally, participants who experience prevention fit tend not to rely on the disposition effect (Shefrin and Statman 1985), a heuristic in which investors sell winning stocks too quickly and hold losing stocks too long (Experiment 3). Overall, we find support for our view that sustaining a prevention focus (prevention fit) facilitates depth of processing.

A fourth experiment investigates reliance on a second investment heuristic, the 1/n asset allocation rule (Benartzi and Thaler 2001). No effects of regulatory fit are observed, however, we find that inducing a prevention focus increases participants' reliance on the 1/n heuristic. We attribute this to a desire for a more conservative portfolio on the part of prevention-oriented participants and discuss potential implications of this finding.

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