Brianna Middlewood ACF Abstract FY11

"Nonsocial threats activate belonging regulation processes"

Midwestern Psychological Association May 5-7

Brianna Middlewood

Major Purpose:  Belonging regulation involves 1) the identification of threats to belonging and, 2) cognitive and behavioral processes that facilitate reconnection (e.g., Leary & Downs, 1995; Pickett & Gardner, 2005).  Indeed, research shows that fluctuations in self-esteem, nonverbal cues, and possible social exclusion instigate belonging regulation (e.g., Leary, 2005).  Additionally, heightened belonging needs elicit greater accuracy for facial expressions and vocal tones (Pickett, Gardner, & Knowles, 2004), activation of group identities (Knowles & Gardner, 2008), enhanced generosity (Maner et al., 2007), and enhanced performance on group tasks (Williams & Sommers, 1998).  

The current studies expand on this belonging regulation model.  First, we propose that nonsocial experiences that implicate relational value can initiate belonging regulation processes.  Second, we propose activation of the interdependent self as an additional mechanism of social reconnection.  We hypothesized that possible failures (vs. successes) on an upcoming task would initiate belonging regulation, as evidenced by activation of the interdependent self.  Furthermore, we expected that possible failures (vs. successes) would facilitate behavioral attempts at social reconnection, but only within interdependent contexts (which allow for belonging regulation).

Procedure:   Study 1:  Participants received loss-framed or gain-framed standards regarding their possible performance on an upcoming visual-spatial task, then completed a lexical decision task including independent (e.g., “unique”), interdependent (e.g., “team”), neutral (e.g., “room”) and nonwords.  Study 2:   Participants received loss-framed or gain-framed standards regarding their possible performance on an upcoming anagram task, and were led to believe they would complete this task individually or in conjunction with other participants.  Task performance was measured as the number of anagrams attempted.

Results:  Study 1:  As predicted, participants responded faster to interdependent words when anticipating a failure (vs. a success), F(1,50)=2.78, p=.10.  Similarly, participants responded faster to interdependent words than independent words when anticipating a failure, F(1,51)=10.21, p<.01.  Study 2:  As predicted, possible failures significantly enhanced performance in the group (vs. individual) context, F(1,79)=7.63, p=.01, whereas possible successes did not significantly impact performance as a function of task context, F<1. 

Conclusions/implications:  In sum, the belonging regulation process appears to be sensitive to relatively nonsocial experiences that implicate belonging needs.  This was evidenced across two studies, which examined belonging regulation in terms of the spontaneous activation of the interdependent self (Study 1) and task performance within interdependent contexts (Study 2).  Discussion will center on implications and future directions.

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