Influences ofNondirectional Outcome Motivation

Although less research exists concerning the cognitive effects of nondirectional outcome motivation, several varieties have been considered in some depth (e.g., Cacioppo, Petty, Feinstein, & Jarvis, 1996; Fiske & Neuberg, 1990; Kruglanski & Webster, 1996; Lerner &

Tetlock, 1999). Among these, the two most prominent are desires for accuracy (Fiske & Neuberg, 1 990) and desires for clarity and conciseness, or closure (Kruglanski & Webster, 1996). Here, we consider the effects of these two motivations (which, as will be discussed, often have opposing effects on information processing) on many of the same cognitive processes examined in the previous section.

Before beginning, however, it should be noted that both accuracy and closure motivation have been operationalized in multiple ways. For example, motivations for accuracy have been studied in terms of wanting to know as much as possible about a person on whom one is going to be dependent (Neuberg & Fiske, 1987), feelings of accountability for one's judgments (e.g., Tetlock, 1983), a "fear of invalidity" (e.g., Kruglanski & Freund, 1983), and simple desires to be as correct as possible (e.g., Neuberg, 1989). Motivations for closure have been examined in terms of feelings of time pressure (Kruglan-ski & Freund, 1983), a desire to quickly complete judgment tasks that are dull and unattractive (Webster, 1993), and desires to escape noisy environments (Kruglanski, Webster, & Klem, 1 993; see Kruglanski & Webster, 1996). In the initial discussion presented, each of these varieties of accuracy or closure motivation are treated as equivalent; some important differences among the effects of these various operationalizations are considered at the end.

effects on attribution

In addition to self-serving biases that occur when people explain their own performance, as described previously, research on attribution has also identified more general biases. For example, there is the tendency for people to fixate on one particular cause for some action or event and then fail to adequately consider alternative causes that are also possible (see Gilbert & Malone, 1995; see also Buehner & Cheng, Chap. 7; Kahne-man & Frederick, Chap. 12). Although these attributional biases have been largely considered from a purely cognitive standpoint, there is evidence to suggest that they can also be influenced by accuracy and closure motivations.

In one study, Tetlock (1985) had participants read an essay either supporting or opposing affirmative action that had ostensibly been written by someone from a previous experiment. They were then informed that the author of the essay had been assigned to take this position by the experimenter and asked to judge the extent to which the arguments presented in the essay reflected the author's own attitude. People who were not provided with any additional motivations displayed the typical fixation on a single cause. These individuals reported that the position taken in the supportive essay could be explained by the positive attitude of the author toward affirmative action, whereas the position taken in the opposing essay could be explained by the negative attitude of the author toward affirmative action despite knowing that both essays had been largely coerced by the experimenter. However, people who were motivated to make accurate judgments (by informing them that they would later be discussing the reasons for their impressions with the experimenter) did consider the alternative cause represented by the experimenter's coercion. These individuals judged the attitude of the author to be neutral regardless of which essay they read. A study by Webster (1 993) using a similar paradigm showed that, in contrast, when participants' motivation for closure was increased, the typical fixation on a single cause became even more pronounced. Thus, a need for accuracy and a need for closure appear to have opposite effects on people's considerations of alternate causes during attribution (see Kruglanski & Freund, 1983; Kruglanski & Webster, 1 996).

effects on evidence evaluation and information search

As discussed earlier, research on directional outcome motivation has demonstrated that people engage in increased evidence evaluations and prolonged information search when encountering evidence unfavorable to their preferred self-views and reduced evidence evaluation and information search when encountering evidence favorable to their preferred self-views. In contrast, accuracy motivation produces prolonged information search, and closure motivation produces reduced information search, regardless of the circumstances.

This consequence of accuracy motivation is evident in a study by Neuberg (1989), where people were asked to conduct a telephone interview with a peer but were given unfavorable expectations concerning the interviewee. Those participants who were instructed to "form the most accurate impressions possible" of the other person spent more time listening and provided more opportunities for the interviewee to elaborate his or her opinions. This in turn prevented their unfavorable expectations from creating negative final impressions of the interviewee, which is what occurred with those participants who were not given any special instructions for the interview.

Similar consequences of accuracy motivation are also seen in research by Chaiken and colleagues (for reviews, see Chen & Chaiken, 1999; Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). For example, in one study by Maheswaran and Chaiken (1991 ), participants evaluated a product based on a detailed review that described this product more favorably or less favorably than similar products. Participants who were high in accuracy motivation, because they believed their evaluations would have important consequences generated more thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses of the specific product-quality arguments that were listed in the review than did those who were low in accuracy motivation. This again attenuated any effects of people's prior expectations on their final evaluations.

The consequences of closure motivation on evidence evaluation and information search has been shown in several studies by Kruglanski et al. (1993). People were paired with someone else for a discussion about the verdict of a mock trial. Before the discussion, everyone received a summarized legal analysis of the case which, unbeknownst to the participants in the study, supported a different verdict for each member of the pair. Participants with high (versus low) closure motivation attempted to bring about a quick end to the discussion. Moreover, when asked before the discussion, they expressed a strong preference for a partner who could be easily persuaded to their existing viewpoint, and once the discussion began, they stubbornly attempted to convince their partner to see things their way rather than considering alternative arguments.

effects on evaluation complexity

In addition to affecting the length of people's analysis and evaluation of evidence, nondirectional outcome motivation can also influence the complexity of this analysis. Accuracy-motivated individuals form judgments that show greater consideration of conflicting opinions and evidence, whereas closure-motivated individuals form judgments that show less of this type of consideration. Tetlock and colleagues demonstrated these effects in experiments in which participants were asked to write down their thoughts about topics such as affirmative action, American foreign policy, and the causes of certain historical events (for a review, see Lerner & Tetlock, 1999). Responses were then coded for their integrative complexity, which was defined in terms of the degree to which multiple perspectives on an issue were both identified and then integrated into a framework that included complex connections between them. Findings with people who were both novices and experts on the issues they were analyzing (i.e., college students and professional historians, respectively) indicated that those with increased accuracy motivation provided a more in-tegratively complex analysis (e.g., Tetlock, 1983), whereas those with increased closure motivation provided a less integratively complex analysis (Tetlock, 1998).

effects on recall and knowledge activation

Whereas directional outcome motivation was seen earlier to have qualitative effects on recall and knowledge activation, nondirectional outcome motivation has largely quantitative effects. Once again, accuracy motivation and closure motivation have opposite influences.

In an investigation of accuracy motivation on recall during impression formation, Berscheid and colleagues found that when people observed interviews involving individuals with whom they might later be paired, they paid more attention to the interview and remembered more information about the interviewees than when they did not expect any future interactions (Berscheid, Graziano, Monson, & Dermer, 1976; see also Srull, Lichtenstein, & Rothbart, 1985). However, in studies of closure motivation and impression formation, individuals with chronically high (versus low) need for closure spent less time reading different pieces of behavioral information they were given about a target and later recalled fewer of these behaviors (Dijksterhuis, van Knippenberg, Kruglanski, & Schaper, 1996). There is also evidence that people with high (versus low) accuracy motivation activate more pieces of individuating trait and behavioral information when forming impressions of others (Kruglanski & Freund, 1983; Neuberg & Fiske, 1987), whereas people with high (versus low) need for closure display an increased tendency to rely solely on categorical information during impression formation (Dijksterhuis et al., 1996; Kruglanski & Freund, 1983; see also Moskowitz, 1993).

Similar effects are found for the use of highly accessible knowledge structures or attitudes in judgment. In typical circumstances, concepts or attitudes that have been recently or frequently activated will lead people to assimilate their judgments to this highly accessible information without considering any additional information (see Fazio, 1995; Higgins, 1996). Increased accuracy motivation can attenuate assimilation effects by increasing the activation of alternative interpretations, whereas increased closure motivation can exacerbate assimilation effects by decreasing the activation of alternative interpretations. For example, when evaluating the behavior of a target person who was ambiguously adventurous or reck less, participants based their evaluations on whichever one of these concepts was most accessible to a greater extent when their closure motivation was high but to a lesser extent when their accuracy motivation was high (Ford & Kruglanski, 1995; Thompson et al., 1994). These effects have been found both when people are making online judgments (Kruglanski & Freund, 1983; Schuette & Fazio, 1995) and when they are reconsidering previously encountered information (Sanbonmatsu & Fazio, 1990; Thompson et al., 1994).

Overall, then, motivations for nondirec-tional outcomes can also affect basic cognitive processes and profoundly influence thinking. Whereas motivations for directional outcomes were earlier shown to alter how people activate, evaluate, and explain information during reasoning, motivations for nondirectional outcomes (at least in terms of the accuracy and closure motivations reviewed here) instead alter how much activation, evaluation, or explanation, in fact, occurs. Furthermore, as the findings presented here illustrate, such quantitative differences in thought can often affect the outcomes of people's judgments and decisions just as much as the qualitative differences described previously.3

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Affirmations For Success

Affirmations For Success

Finally, The Ultimate Guide To Changing Your Life Forever. Get Your Hands On The Ultimate Guide For Live Improvement Through Affirmations For Success And Let It's Magic Change Your Life Forever. Discover How OrdinaryPeople Can Live Extraordinary Lives Through The Power Of Affirmations.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment