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Master of Science (M.S.)

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Control Beliefs, Situation Selection, Emotion Regulation, Goals, Motivation


Control beliefs are widely acknowledged to play a critical role in self-regulation and well-being, but their impact on decisions to approach or avoid emotionally valenced stimuli is not clear. Two contradictory predictions for this impact can be derived from extant theorizing on the functions of control beliefs. On the one hand, control beliefs may provide individuals with the incentive to proactively regulate their emotions and avoid negative situations. On the other hand, control beliefs might help individuals to confidently approach negative situations. The current study examined whether goal orientations help to determine the conditions under which control beliefs promote negativity engagement versus negativity avoidance. Specifically, I experimentally manipulated emotional control beliefs (high versus low) and motivation (emotional goal versus no goal), asked participants to interact with a website containing a variety of stimuli varying in emotional valence, and recorded participants’ choice behavior. I predicted that stronger control beliefs would promote negativity engagement under typical motivational conditions, but would promote negativity avoidance when emotional goals were activated. Results supported these predictions, suggesting that the effect of control beliefs on the decision to approach or avoid negative stimuli depends on the goal activated at the time. Implications for research on control beliefs, emotion regulation, and motivational theories are discussed.


First Advisor

Linda M Isbell