Regulatory Optimality in Social Conflict


This ongoing multistage study investigates the relationship between regulatory focus and social conflict dynamics across time. Like many other projects at the ICCCR, this research has implemented a range of online-based, experimental, and computer simulation procedures in order to investigate the temporal and nonlinear dynamics of this relationship.

Corroborating prior research findings, an online study found significant correlations between measures of chronic regulatory focus and different emotions, values, and behavioral intentions across three different conflict scenarios. A follow-up online experimental study manipulated the framing of the same conflict scenario (as either promotion-focused, prevention-focused, or a combination of the two), and found that the combined framing resulted in the highest scores on outcome satisfaction and goal attainment, when compared to either the promotion or prevention condition alone.

In a subsequent lab study, participants self-coded their stream-of-thoughts accounts of actual conflicts using the mouse paradigm (for promotion/prevention focus). This tool is a method for capturing and coding temporal data, and was used in an effort to determine how different ratios of promotion-to-prevention across time were associated with differences in satisfaction with conflict processes, relationships, and outcomes. Results confirmed that a focus on both promotion and prevention was associated with higher outcome and task satisfaction than either promotion or prevention alone, whereas a higher ratio of promotion-to-prevention was associated with higher process and relationship satisfaction


Hoping for the Best, Preparing for the Worst: Regulatory Focus Optimality in Social Conflict
By Peter T. Coleman, Katharina Kugler, and Robin Vallacher (under review)

Three studies tested the hypothesis that social conflict is associated with better outcomes when the parties construe the conflict with a regulatory focus that reflects an optimal balance between promotion and prevention orientations. Study 1 found that chronic promotion orientations were associated with more promotive emotions, values, and behavioral intentions across three conflict scenarios, while chronic prevention orientations were associated with more preventative emotions, values, and behavioral intentions. Study 2 framed a conflict scenario as either prevention- or promotion-focused, or as both. As predicted, the combined framing promoted greater satisfaction with both conflict outcomes and goal attainment than did either prevention or promotion alone. In the third study, we coded stream-of-thought accounts of actual conflicts for promotion and prevention focus. Again, participants who emphasized both promotion and prevention expressed the highest outcome satisfaction. However, higher ratios of promotion to prevention focus were associated with higher process and relationship satisfaction.

For more information about this project contact Kyong Mazzaro at kmazzaro(at)