Current Psychology

Ego-depletion or invigoration in solving the tower of Hanoi? Action orientation helps overcome planning deficits

Kazén, M., Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-020-00770-9

Personality systems interaction (PSI) theory postulates two executive control modes: Self-control and self-regulation. Self-control, typical of state oriented persons, should result in “ego depletion” whereas self-regulation, typical of action oriented persons, should result in invigoration. State- and action-oriented participants performed the Plan-a-Day and the 5-disk Tower-of-Hanoi tasks. There were no differences between them on the first task, but action had better performance than state oriented in terms of number of moves and solution time on the second task, independently of differences in self-determination. Better performance in the Tower of Hanoi correlated positively with activation, and negatively with apathy. We conclude that whereas self-control is associated with depletion, self-regulation is associated with invigoration in performing the Tower of Hanoi task.

Personality and Individual Differences

When tough gets you going: Action orientation unfolds with difficult intentions and can be fostered by mental contrasting

Friederichs, K.M., Kees, M.C. & Baumann N.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.109970

Action orientation is a volitional mode that supports successful intention enactment under demands. We ex- pected that priming difficulties evokes action-oriented individuals to self-regulate positive affect for effective intention enactment and causes state-oriented individuals to struggle. However, we predicted that mental contrasting increases intention enactment among state-oriented individuals. In two studies (N1 = 132, 46.21% male, Mage = 16.53; N2 = 128, 61.72% male, Mage = 11.53), intention enactment was assessed non-reactively by Stroop interference. As a crucial test for self-regulatory ability, we used intention-forming primes (“setting high goals”) which call for self-generating positive affect and presumably facilitate intention enactment only among action-oriented individuals. In Study 2, we aimed to improve state-oriented participants' intention en- actment through mental contrasting. Consistent with expectations, action-oriented individuals showed a com- plete removal of Stroop interference after intention-forming primes (Studies 1 and 2). Furthermore, a short mental contrasting intervention promoted intention enactment among state-oriented participants (Study 2). Findings support the understanding that action-oriented individuals excel under demanding conditions whereas state-oriented individuals have to practice self-regulating positive affect to successfully enact under demands.


Journal of Personality

Just a click away: Action-state orientation moderates the impact of task interruptions on initiative.

Birk, M., Mandryk, R. & Baumann, N.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12498

The present research examines the role of individual differences in self‐regulation (i.e., demand‐related action–state orientation) on initiative to resume an interrupted task.

In three studies (N1 = 208, 55% male, Mage = 33.2; N2 = 457, 62% male, Mage = 31.7; N3 = 210, 60% male, Mage = 32.6), participants were notified about a network interruption while playing a computer game. Participants could dismiss the interrupting notification by clicking a continue button or wait until the notification timed out. We manipulated demand by presenting notifications during (demand) versus after game rounds (no demand).

Demand‐related action orientation was associated with higher probability to dismiss the notification during a game round, controlling for dismissal after a game round. Findings occurred when controlling for task ability and task motivation, were specific for demand‐ and not threat‐related action orientation, were complemented by shorter dismissal latencies, and were stable across interruption timeouts (Studies 1–3). Exposure through repetition resulted in adaptation (Study 3).

The findings suggest that people with lower action orientation have less self‐regulatory ability to initiate goal‐directed action and resume interrupted tasks—even if they are just a click away. Findings are discussed within the framework of Personality Systems Interactions theory.


Frontiers in Psychology - Section Cultural Psychology

Cross-cultural analysis of volition: Action orientation is associated with less anxious motive enactment and greater well-being in Germany, New Zealand, and Bangladesh.

Amlinger-Chatterjee, M. B., Baumann, N., Osborne, D., Mahmud, S. H. & Koole, S. L.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01043

Background: People differ in action vs. state orientation, that is, in the capacity for volitional action control. Prior research has shown that people who are action-rather than state-oriented are better able to perceive and satisfy own motives (e.g., affiliation, achievement, power), which translates into greater psychological well-being (Baumann et al., 2005; Baumann and Quirin, 2006). However, most of the extant literature has been limited to samples from European countries or the US. To address this shortcoming, the present paper investigated the associations between action vs. state orientation, psychological well-being, and anxious style of motive enactment among samples in Germany, New Zealand, and Bangladesh (combined N = 862). Methods: To examine the consistency of our results across countries, a multi-group structural equation model (SEM) was used to examine the associations between action orientation, anxious motive enactment, and well-being. Subsequent mediation analyses assessed whether anxious motive enactment mediated the relationship between action orientation and well-being across each of the three samples. Results: Across all three cultural groups, action orientation was associated with less anxious motive enactment and higher well-being. Moreover, mediation analyses revealed significant indirect paths from action orientation through less anxious motive enactment to well-being that were similar across the three samples. Conclusions: These findings suggest that individual differences in action vs. state orientation have a similar psychological meaning across Western and non-Western cultures.

Polish Psychological Bulletin

The we helps me: Poor emotion-regulators benefit from relatedness.

Amlinger-Chatterjee, M.B., & Baumann, N.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.24425/119471

Since the construct of action versus state orientation was introduced more than 30 years ago, this measure of individual differences in the ability to intuitively self-regulate emotions has become the focus of more than 100 published studies. These studies have related action orientation to smooth psychological functioning. In contrast, state orientation is associated with a low ability to self-regulate negative emotional states intuitively and a higher risk to suffer from psychological impairments. In the present article, we investigate whether relatedness mitigates detrimental effects of state orientation. Our analysis includes relatedness on the levels of (a) culture, (b) personal values, and (c) situational cues. The findings indicate that action-state orientation matters and works similarly across non-Western (Bangladesh, India) and Western cultures (Germany, New Zealand). Merely being a member of a presumably interrelated culture does not mitigate adverse effects of state orientation. In contrast, personally valuing relatedness (i.e., benevolence) and situationally cueing relatedness (i.e., thinking about similarities with a friend) both compensate state orientation – especially in conjunction with each other.


Biological psychology

Relative frontal brain asymmetry and cortisol release after social stress: The role of action orientation.

Düsing, R., Tops, M., Radtke, E. L., Kuhl, J., & Quirin, M.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2016.01.012

Social evaluation is a potent stressor and consistently leads to an activation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal system. Here, we investigated whether individual differences in action orientation influence the relationship between the cortisol response to social-evaluative threat and relative left frontal electroencephalographic (EEG) alpha asymmetry as a brain marker of approach motivation. Forty-nine participants were exposed to a camera-based variant of the Trier Social Stress Task while salivary cortisol and resting EEG frontal alpha asymmetry were assessed before and after stress induction. Higher relative left frontal activity was associated with higher changes in cortisol levels as measured by the area under curve with respect to increase, particularly in individuals low in action orientation. We discuss the role of the left frontal cortex in coping, the potential role of oxytocin, and negative health consequences when the left-frontal coping process becomes overstrained.

Motivation and Emotion

Flow and Enjoyment beyond Skill-Demand Balance: The Role of Game Pacing Curves and Personality.

Baumann, N., Lürig, C., & Engeser, S.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-016-9549-7

According to flow theory, skill-demand balance is optimal for flow. Experimentally, balance has been tested only against strong overload and strong boredom. We assessed flow and enjoyment as distinct experiences and expected that they (a) are not optimized by constant balance, (b) experimentally dissociate, and (c) are supported by different personality traits. Beyond a constant balance condition (“balance”), we realized two dynamic pacing conditions where demands fluctuated through short breaks: one condition without overload (“dynamic medium”) and another with slight overload (“dynamic high”). Consistent with assumptions, constant balance was not optimal for flow (balance ≤ dynamic medium < dynamic high) and enjoyment (balance ≤ dynamic high < dynamic medium). Action orientation enabled high flow even under the suboptimal condition of balance. Sensation seeking increased enjoyment under the suboptimal but arousing dynamic high condition. We discuss dynamic changes in positive affect (seeking and mastering challenge) as an integral part of flow.


Journal of Personality

Personality interacts with implicit affect to predict performance in analytic versus holistic processing.

Kazén, M., Kuhl, J., & Quirin, M.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12100

Both theoretical approaches and empirical evidence suggest that negative affect fosters analytic processing, whereas positive affect fosters holistic processing, but these effects are inconsistent. We aim to show that (a) differences in affect regulation abilities (“action orientation”) and (b) implicit more so than self‐reported affect assessment need to be considered to advance our understanding of these processes. Forty participants were asked to verify whether a word was correctly or incorrectly spelled to measure analytic processing, as well as to intuitively assess whether sets of three words were coherent (remote associates task) to measure holistic processing. As expected, implicit but not explicit negative affect interacted with low action orientation (“state orientation”) to predict higher d' performance in word spelling, whereas implicit but not explicit positive affect interacted with high action orientation to predict higher d' performance in coherence judgments for word triads. Results are interpreted according to personality systems interaction theory. These findings suggest that affect and affect changes should be measured explicitly and implicitly to investigate affect‐cognition interactions. Moreover, they suggest that good affect regulators benefit from positive affect for holistic processing, whereas bad affect regulators benefit from negative affect for analytical processing.


Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

Profound versus superficial coping with mortality threats: Action orientation moderates implicit but not explicit outgroup prejudice.

Quirin, M., Bode, R. C., Luckey, U., Pyszczynski, T., & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167214536928

Mortality salience (MS) strengthens cultural values but individuals might differ in whether this process operates at a superficial, explicit level only or also at a profound, implicit level. Two studies investigated whether explicit and implicit attitudes toward Muslims after an MS induction vary as a function of threat-related action orientation (AOT), an efficient form of self-regulation of emotion and behavior that draws on the activation of the implicit, integrated self. In Study 1, there was a main effect of MS on explicit prejudice but only participants with high levels of AOT showed reduced implicit prejudice following MS. In Study 2, this interaction effect was replicated using an alternative implicit measure of prejudice. Defense in response to MS might thus not be a uniform phenomenon but might be composed of processes operating on different (i.e., profound vs. superficial) levels that vary with types of self-regulation such as high versus low AOT.

Polish Psychological Bulletin

Individual differences in coping with mortality salience in Germany vs. Poland: Cultural worldview or personal view defense?

Wojdylo, K., Kazén, M., Kuhl, J., & Mitina, O.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.2478/ppb-2014-0030

We investigated the influence of personality and culture on effects of mortality salience (MS) over cultural worldview defense (CWVD). We hypothesized that CWVD reactions to MS differ between Germany and Poland because of the higher conservatism of the latter country, and that they are moderated by action vs. state orientation. In this study, German (N=112) and Polish (N=72), participants were exposed either to MS or to a control condition (dental pain). Punishment ratings to trivial offences and serious social transgressions were measures of CWVD. Results showed that social transgressions in both conditions were more strongly punished in Poland than in Germany. Additionally, compared to the control condition, under MS action oriented punished serious transgressions more strongly in Germany whereas state oriented punished serious transgressions more strongly in Poland. That is, the effects of MS on CWVD are moderated by personality and culture. We interpret the opposite pattern of punishment to serious social transgressions given by action and state oriented in in Germany and Poland, respectively, according to the higher emotional autonomy of action-oriented persons in either culture.

Zeitschrift für Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie

Selbstregulation von Emotionen als Schutzfaktor gegen gesundheitliche Auswirkungen von Mobbing [Self-regulation as a buffer against the health effects of bullying].

Wojdylo, K., Baumann, N., Kuhl, J., & Horstmann, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1026/1616-3443/a000236

Background: Although several studies have already addressed the relationship between bullying and health effects, little is known about the meaning of self-regulative mechanisms for the health of bullying victims. Objective: Do low action-oriented victims of bullying differ from high action-oriented victims of bullying in the intensity of their health symptoms? Method: Thirty five inpatients from a psychosomatic rehabilitation center who were victims of bullying participated in our study. Variables were assessed using standardized diagnostic procedures (Bullying Questionnaire, ACS, SCL-90-R). Results: For patients with low self-regulatory ability (i.e., state orientation) stronger bullying was associated with higher psychosomatic symptoms. In contrast, patients with high self-regulatory ability (i.e., action orientation) had relatively low psychosomatic symptoms, irrespective of the multiplicity of specific bullying behaviors. Conclusion: The ability to self-regulate emotions seems to buffer adverse health effects associated with a severe social stressor like bullying.


Social and Personality Psychology Compass

Do demanding conditions help or hurt self-regulation?

Koole, S. L., Jostmann, N. B., & Baumann, N.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2012.00425.x

Although everyday life is often demanding, it remains unclear how demanding conditions impact self‐regulation. Some theories suggest that demanding conditions impair self‐regulation, by undermining autonomy, interfering with skilled performance and working memory, and depleting energy resources. Other theories, however, suggest that demanding conditions improve self‐regulation by mobilizing super‐ordinate control processes. The present article integrates both kinds of theories by proposing that the self‐regulatory impact of demanding conditions depends on how people adapt to such conditions. When people are action‐oriented, demanding conditions may lead to improved self‐regulation. When people are state‐oriented, demanding conditions may lead to impaired self‐regulation. Consistent with this idea, action versus state orientation strongly moderates the influence of demands on self‐regulatory performance. The impact of demanding conditions on self‐regulation is thus not fixed, but modifiable by psychological processes.


Journal of Research in Personality

Individual differences in intention initiation under demanding conditions: Interactive effects of state vs. action orientation and enactment difficulty.

Kazén, M., Kaschel, R., & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2007.09.005

The present research examines individual differences in intention initiation. State- compared to action-oriented persons show an intention superiority effect for the cognitive representation of intentions [Goschke, T., & Kuhl, J. (1993). Representation of intentions: Persisting activation in memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 19, 1211–1226], but at the same time have a paradoxical deficit in initiating and carrying them out under demanding conditions. The present two experiments focus on intention initiation. Experiment 1 used a modified event-based paradigm of prospective memory, precuing prospective actions with words varying in association to the target word. State-oriented participants had longer latencies in initiating uncued compared to precued actions under low-positive affect (high listlessness). In Experiment 2, we used a key-pressing task under high vs. low cognitive load (uncompleted vs. completed intention). State-oriented participants under high load had longer latencies when they chose by themselves which of two goals to pursue, compared to an External-Cue condition. Action-oriented participants showed efficient performance in each experiment. The intention-initiation deficit of state-oriented participants was related to higher levels of listlessness (first experiment) or to high load (second experiment) suggesting that motivational factors interact with volitional impairments. These results are interpreted in terms of Personality Systems Interaction theory (Kuhl, 2000).


Self and relationships: Connecting intrapersonal and interpersonal processes

Self-regulation in interpersonal relationships: The case of action versus state orientation.

Koole, S. L., Kuhl, J., Jostmann, N. B., & Finkenauer, C.

Self-regulation can be defined as the set of psychological processes through which people bring their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in line with abstract standards, goals, or values (Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1993; Kuhl & Koole, 2004). In recent years, psychologists have developed a variety of different models and metaphors to try to explain how self-regulation works. Prevailing models and metaphors of self-regulation, despite their differences, have at least one thing in common: They portray self-regulation as a private process that predominantly takes place within the individual psyche. In everyday life, however, complete privacy is the exception rather than the rule. Self-regulation therefore often serves important interpersonal functions. The interface between self-regulation and interpersonal relationships did not receive much research attention until fairly recently. Currently, a growing number of studies have found that interpersonal relationships shape the person's capacity for self-regulation (Diamond & Aspinwall, 2003; Finkenauer, Engels, & Baumeister, 2005; Kuhl, 2000; Mikulincer, Shaver, & Pereg, 2003; Wegner & Erber, 1993). Conversely, it is becoming increasingly apparent that self-regulation is a key moderator of people's behavior in interpersonal relationships (Finkel & Campbell, 2001). In the present chapter, we aim to shed more light on the interface between self-regulation and interpersonal relationships. Our discussion focuses particularly on the notion of action versus state orientation (Kuhl, 1981, 1984). Action orientation refers to a meta-static, or change-promoting, mode of control during which self-regulation is facilitated. State orientation refers to a cata-static, or change-preventing, mode of control, during which self-regulation is inhibited. The notion of action versus state orientation has inspired considerable theory and research over the last few decades. In the present chapter, we build on this work to analyze the mutual dependence between self-regulation and interpersonal relationships. In what follows, we start by considering the notion of action versus state orientation in more detail. We then discuss how dispositions toward action versus state orientation are shaped, triggered, and manifested in the context of interpersonal relationships. We end with our main conclusions and possibilities for future research and applications on the crossroads between self-regulation and interpersonal relationships.


A psychological perspective

On the hidden benefits of state orientation: Can people prosper without efficient affect regulation skills?

Koole, S. L., Kuhl. J., Jostmann, N., & Vohs, K. D.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203998052

In this chapter, the authors propose that state orientation, defined as the inability to exert volitional control over one's feelings, has both psychological costs and benefits. Because of modern society's emphasis on personal efficacy and control, the benefits of state orientation are easily overlooked. Accordingly, the authors' goal in this chapter is to present a theoretical analysis that identifies some of the trade-offs that are involved in state-oriented coping. In the next paragraphs, they begin by taking a closer look at the theory and research on state orientation. After that, the authors review some arguments for believing that state orientation can sometimes be adaptive and discuss potential ways in which state orientation may lead to favorable outcomes. Finally, they consider some of the broader implications of the hidden benefits of state orientation for the theoretical understanding of affect regulation and volitional action control.

Conference Proceedings of the Third International SELF Research Conference – Self-concept, motivation and identity: Where to from here.

Toward an integrated self: Age differences and the role of action orientation.

Gröpel, P., Kuhl, J., & Kazén, M.

According to Personality Systems Interactions (PSI) Theory (Kuhl, 2001), good self-access is needed when negative or contradictory experiences are to be integrated in the self. Action orientation is a personality disposition based on the ability to regulate affective states under stress which seems to facilitate the maintenance of self-access in stress situations. Therefore, action orientation can be assumed to be an important ability needed for the development of an integrated self. In this study, we investigate the role of action orientation in the integration process as well as age differences in the level of integrated self. Analyzing the data of 14,254 persons between ages from 18 to 70 years, we found a significant increase of integration level with increasing age. Similarly, action orientation increased with age too. As expected, action orientation predicted the level of integration. Moreover, action orientation mediated the relationship between age and integration level. The findings underline the importance of action orientation by developing an integrated self in the life span.

Journal of Personality

How to resist temptation: The effects of external control versus autonomy support on self-regulatory dynamics.

Baumann, N. & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.2005.00315.x

The purpose of the present study (N = 80 undergraduate students) was to examine two issues: First, does external control lead to an increase in resistance to temptation more than the use of autonomy support? Second, what are the long‐term effects of these types of educational style? Based on the Personality Systems Interaction (PSI) theory, external control was expected to increase resistance to temptation for those participants who lack initiative and self‐motivation (i.e., state‐oriented participants). Consistent with expectations, resistance to temptation was greater for state‐oriented participants with externally controlled instructions than for individuals who received autonomy‐supportive instructions. This was reflected by their performance on a visual discrimination task during distracter, compared to baseline, episodes. However, external control had negative long‐term effects on state‐oriented participants as indexed by alienation from their own preferences in free‐choice behavior. Action‐oriented participants were less influenced by experimental conditions.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Striving for unwanted goals: Stress-dependent discrepancies between explicit and implicit achievement motives reduce subjective well-being and increase psychosomatic symptoms.

Baumann, N., Kaschel, R., & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.89.5.781

Three studies investigated the relevance of affect regulation, stressful life events, and congruence between explicit achievement orientation and implicit achievement motive for subjective well-being and symptom formation. According to personality systems interactions (PSI) theory, stressful life events were expected to reduce motive congruence when the ability to self-regulate affect was impaired (i.e., state orientation). Consistent with expectations, the State Orientation x Stress interaction predicted incongruence in healthy participants (Studies 1 and 3) and in patients (Study 2). Furthermore, incongruence partially mediated the direct State Orientation x Stress effect on subjective well-being (Studies 1 and 3) and the course of psychosomatic complaints over 3 months (Study 2). In Study 3, the experimental induction of threat reduced motive congruence in state-oriented participants compared with an acceptance condition. Findings underscore the importance of assessing motive congruence as a "hidden stressor" and validate a new operant multi-motive test.


Personality and Individual Differences

From justification to discovery: A conditional testing approach to unorthodox forms of interpersonal interaction.

Schneider, R., Kuhl, J., & Walach, H.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0191-8869(03)00111-9

We tested the claim that individuals can interact without deploying orthodox means of communication. A conditional testing approach (CTA) was applied. In four experiments, 11–15 pairs each were physically isolated and one person (‘agent’) tried to mentally influence another person (‘receiver’). Indicators of autonomic arousal of the receiver (EDA, respiration) were recorded. Each experiment consisted of a specific stress inducing instruction (failure-avoiding vs. reinforcing) and a specific type of self-regulation related personality trait (action vs. state orientation). Significant effects were observed for two experiments. Experimental success was negatively correlated with self-regulatory mechanisms. This finding was furthermore supported when various personality functions derived from Personality Systems Interaction theory were tested. They suggest that a low-level personality system, whose main function serves interpersonal interaction, is indicative of the effect.


Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

Self-infiltration: Confusing assigned tasks as self-selected in memory.

Baumann, N., & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167202250916

Two studies examined determinants of self-infiltration (i.e., false self-attribution of externally controlled goals or activities). According to Personality Systems Interactions (PSI) theory, a sad mood was expected to reduce access to integrated self-representations and lead to self-infiltration for participants who have an impaired ability to cope with negative affect (i.e., state-oriented participants). Consistent with expectations, state-oriented participants had a tendency toward self-infiltration (as indexed by higher rates of false self-ascription of assigned activities) when reporting higher levels of sadness (Study 1) and after the experimental induction of a sad mood (Study 2). Participants who are able to downregulate negative affect (i.e., action-oriented participants), did not show this tendency. Theoretical and practical implications of the process of self-infiltration are discussed.

Tests und Trends: N. F. Band 2. Diagnostik von Motivation und Selbstkonzept

Handlungs- und Lageorienterung: Wie lernt man, seine Gefühle zu steuern?

Kuhl, J., & Kazén, M.

Wir kennen alle das Phänomen: Man ärgert sich über die Unfreundlichkeit eines Kollegen oder über ein eigenes Mißgeschick und die Verstimmung hält länger an, als es einem lieb ist Die Niedergeschlagenheit über einen Verlust kann auf Stunden oder Tage die eigene Leistungskraft und die Fähigkeit beeinträchtigen, mit anderen so nett und offen umzugehen, wie man es eigentlich möchte. Bei manchen Menschen dauern lähmende Gefühle so lange an, dass sie nur noch über ihre missliche Lage nachdenken müssen und in ihr stecken bleiben, weil der Schwung fehlt, sich auf die anstehende Aufgaben zu konzentrieren. Diese ungewollte Fixierung auf die eigene Lage habe ich mit dem Begriff der Lageorientierung beschrieben. Wer sich von den Gedanken und Gefühle, die in einer misslichen Lage auftreten, auch gut wieder ablösen kann, vielleicht sogar mit mehr Schwung als zuvor, wird die eingetretene Lage durch eigenes Handeln meistern können: Ein Handlungsorientierter würde demnach nicht übermäßig lange darüber nachgrübeln, wie es zu dem Missgeschick gekommen ist, wer die Schuld daran habe u.ä., sondern ihm würden bald verschiedene Handlungsmöglichkeiten einfallen: Der eigene Fehler wird identifiziert und korrigiert, sodass sich ein erneuter Versuch lohnt; der Kollege, der sich so unfreundlich verhalten hat, wird ganz offen und direkt angesprochen, ohne die eigene Enttäuschung herab zu spielen, aber auch ohne sich auf die Lage zu fixieren. Statt sich in Vorwürfen oder Ermahnungen zu verheddern, die ja nur Gegenwehr auslösen, wird gemeinsam geschaut, was man in Zukunft besser machen kann: Vielleicht sind unfreundliche Ausbrüche in der Zukunft ja vermeidbar, wenn man sich an jedem Tag einmal bespricht, um alle möglichen Missverständnisse oder Fehlentwicklungen schon rechtzeitig zu erkennen.


International Journal of Psychophysiology

A conditional testing approach to unorthodox forms of interaction.

Schneider, R., Kuhl, J. & Walach, H.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0191-8869(03)00111-9

We tested the claim that individuals can interact without deploying orthodox means of communication. A conditional testing approach (CTA) was applied. In four experiments, 11–15 pairs each were physically isolated and one person (‘agent’) tried to mentally influence another person (‘receiver’). Indicators of autonomic arousal of the receiver (EDA, respiration) were recorded. Each experiment consisted of a specific stress inducing instruction (failure-avoiding vs. reinforcing) and a specific type of self-regulation related personality trait (action vs. state orientation). Significant effects were observed for two experiments. Experimental success was negatively correlated with self-regulatory mechanisms. This finding was furthermore supported when various personality functions derived from Personality Systems Interaction theory were tested. They suggest that a low-level personality system, whose main function serves interpersonal interaction, is indicative of the effect.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Intuition, affect, and personality: Unconscious coherence judgments and self-regulation of negative affect.

Baumann, N., & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.83.5.1213

According to personality systems interaction theory, a negative mood was expected to reduce access to extended semantic networks and to reduce performance on intuitive judgments of coherence for participants who have an impaired ability to down-regulate negative affect (i.e., state-oriented participants). Consistent with expectations, state-oriented participants reporting higher levels of perseverating negative mood had a reduced discrimination between coherent and incoherent standard word triples(Study 1) and individually derived word triples describing persons (Study 2). Participants who are able to down-regulate negative affect (i.e., action-oriented participants) did not show this tendency. In addition, Study 2 revealed a dissociation between state orientation and Neuroticism that is discussed in terms of a functional difference between the two constructs.


Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Self – discrimination and memory: State orientation and false self-ascription of assigned activities.

Kuhl, J., & Kazén, M.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.66.6.1103

A new paradigm to investigate the tendency to falsely ascribe to oneself assigned goals (misinformed introjection or self-infiltration) and the better memory of self-chosen than of assigned prospective activities (self-choice effect) is explored. In two experiments, state-oriented subjects showed significantly higher rates of false self-ascriptions of assigned activities than action-oriented subjects did (an individual-difference factor related to volitional efficiency; Kuhl & Beckmann, 1994b), whereas all subjects gave evidence of the self-choice effect. Specific manipulations to reduce and to increase the probability of occurrence of false self-ascriptions were also carried out (an intentional-learning instruction and task interruption, respectively). Finally, a first step was taken to examine the relationship between self-infiltration and the tendency to enact more self-chosen than assigned activities (self-determination).

Volition and personality: Action versus state orientation.

Kuhl, J., Beckmann, J (Ed.)

This text presents a new approach to analysing human behaviour. The fundamental concept is to focus on how people link motivation with action, and why they do or do not stick with their original intentions. The studies included here attempt to separate people into two groups: state-oriented individuals who focus under stress on the past, present or future states, rather than options available for action; and action-oriented individuals who focus under stress on action alternatives. The experiments which were performed include ones analysing the memory mechanisms that underlie the rigid versus flexible maintenance of intentions. Also discussed are studies in which the new scale system has been applied to phenomena such as helplessness, depression, alienation, procrastination, self-regulation, decision making and athletic performance. This book will be of interest to both behavioural and cognitive psychologists, and specialists in sports as well as aviation psychology. In the latter case, for example, neurological tests can be applied in connection with the fundamental concepts of this book in an effort to predict pilot skill. The approach explained in great detail here has also provided the framework for a number of computerized psychological assessment instruments.

Volition and personality: Action versus state orientation

Action and state orientation and the performance of top athletes: A differentiated picture.

Beckmann, J., Kazén, M.

When reading through the existing literature on action and state orientation one will at least be on the verge of adopting the view that state orientation is always an annoying source of hindrance to the realization of our intentions. State orientation seems to fill our minds with task-irrelevant thoughts that block the efficient employment of action control strategies like e. g., motivation control or attention focusing etc. (see Kuhl, Chapter 1, this Volume). Moreover, decision time is unduly prolonged and, consequently, the maintenance of an intention in the face of competing alternatives is often not possible, not to forget the core aspect, which is, the inability to quit thinking of or carrying out an activity that is not feasible or to deactivate the respective intention (Kuhl, Chapter 1, this volume). A few authors, however, have mentioned that state orientation might at least have some positive side effects. Hermann and Wortman (1985) have argued that state orientation can have a positive impact on the coping process after the experience of an undesirable life event. These authors state that, for instance “by repeatedly focusing on the victimizing experience, it may be possible for the person to achieve a degree of understanding that would not have been possible, if he/she had avoided or blocked thoughts about what happened” (p. 164). The latter – considered a typical action-oriented response to crisis – can result in premature coping attempts. Poor coping performance may create further difficulties for the victim of an undesirable life event. Thus, Hermann and Wortman (1985) concluded that state orientation might be beneficial for a coping process, especially during early stages of a life crisis (p.165). In addition, the recurrent mental stimulation that occurs with state orientation may help an individual prepare for the variety of incidents that can happen during performance. Thus, the chances that state oriented individuals during actual performance will be confronted with some incident unprepared should be rather low. In this chapter we will address how the basic assumptions of the mediating processes of action and state orientation on performance can be applied to the field of sport. One should expect sport performance to suffer from the loss of self-regulation mediated by state orientation. The next paragraphs report empirical findings that support this assumption. A subsequent section will, however , show that self-regulatory problems of state-oriented athletes can in some cases mediate outstanding performance as well.


Applied Psychology: An International Review

A theory of self-regulation: Action versus state orientation, self-discrimination, and some applications.

Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1464-0597.1992.tb00688.x

This article summarises theory and research concerning mental activities that are dissociated from an individual's current self-chosen intention. Unlike other uncontrollable ("automatic") processes, these activities place heavy demands on limited-capacity resources. Individual differences in the disposition to have uncontrollable dissociations are discussed in terms of the personality construct action vs. state orientation. Three nested theories are described that purport to provide a deeper understanding of intentionally uncontrollable mental cognitions. The scope of behavioural effects of unintended cognitions is substantially enlarged by integrating the theory of state orientation in a comprehensive theory of self-regulation. Proximal and distal antecedents of uncontrollable cognitions can be better understood on the basis of a theory of self-discrimination that explains state-oriented dissociations on the basis of false internalisation of others' beliefs, wishes, and expectations. Educational, clinical, and organisational applications of the theory are discussed.


Action control: From cognition to behaviour

Volitional determinants of cognition-behavior consistency: Self-regulatory processes and action versus state orientations.

Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-69746-3_6

One of the most striking discrepancies between everyday experience and psychological theorizing concerns the complexity of motivational states. While most psychologists tend to focus on a single behavioral domain (e.g., achievement, affiliation, eating, learning, problem solving, sex, etc.), we know from everyday experience that people very rarely seem to have just one behavioral inclination in a given situation. In everyday life people usually experience several motivational tendencies simultaneously and more often than not have multiple commitments to a variety of goals. At first glance our task — to explain and predict which of the competing action tendencies a person actually will implement in a given situation — seems to boil down to the objective of establishing the dominant (i. e., strongest) action tendency among all the competing tendencies (e. g., Atkinson & Birch, 1970).


Journal of Research in Personality

Altering information to gain action control: Functional aspects of human information-processing in decision making.

Beckmann, J., & Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1016/0092-6566(84)90031-X

In recent approaches to social judgment, information distortion has been discussed primarily as a violation of individual rationality, due to unintentionally occurring biases. In contrast to this view, it is argued that frequently individuals make purposive use of selective changes in information processing in order to avoid indecisiveness. In this sense, selective changes in information processing may be considered a functional requirement of a volitional process which protects the current intention (or tentative decision) from being replaced by competing behavioral tendencies. On the basis of J. Kuhl's theory of action control
it was predicted that subjects having a high score on the action-control scale (i.e., action-oriented subjects) should show a stronger tendency to increase the attractiveness rating of a tentatively preferred decision during the process of decision making than subjects scoring low on that scale (i.e., state-oriented subjects). To test this assumption, students searching for an apartment were offered 16 apartments along with a list containing information about the alternatives. The subjects had to rate the attractiveness of each apartment twice before they were asked to indicate which apartments they would like to rent. The results confirmed the predictions. It was found that action-oriented subjects increased the divergence of their attractiveness ratings from the first to the second point of evaluation, whereas state-oriented subjects did not.


Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Motivational and functional helplessness: The moderating effect of action vs. state orientation.

Kuhl, J.

Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.40.1.155

Presents a 3-factor theory of learned helplessness that differs from M. E. Seligman's (see PA, Vol. 54:1316 and 61:1206) theory in placing the emphasis on functional rather than motivational helplessness. Generalized performance decrements following exposure to uncontrollable results are attributed to deteriorated cognitive functioning caused by an increase of state-oriented cognitions (functional helplessness). Motivational helplessness (i.e., performance decrements caused by motivational deficits that are attributable to a belief in uncontrollability) is considered a special case of the 3-factor theory. Two experiments (36 undergraduates) demonstrated that Ss did not generalize reduced perception of controllability from training to test task. Ss exposed to uncontrollable failure in training nevertheless showed increased or decreased performance compared to a control group. Those performance effects could be explained on the basis of a personal disposition for and situational induction of state vs action orientation. It is concluded that a decision concerning the type of therapy for helplessness–depression should not be made until it is known whether motivational or functional helplessness is the primary problem. Although an attributional training may reverse motivational helplessness, it may have adverse effects when applied to depressives characterized by functional helplessness.

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