Interactions between global and local performance incentives on decision-making and categorization
Recent work has shown that the regulatory fit between global approach/avoidance goals and the local approach/avoidance mechanisms of goal pursuit influence cognition and behavior in predictable ways. A regulatory fit leads to an increase in motivation and engagement relative to a regulatory mismatch. The increase in engagement can lead to an increase in cognitive flexibility on cognitively demanding tasks. This work is composed of three inter-related studies that examine how the fit between global performance incentives and local mechanisms of goal pursuit influence decision-making and categorization. In Study 1 I examine how the interaction between global performance incentives and local goal pursuit mechanisms influences decision-making strategies in an experience-based decision-making paradigm. In this paradigm decision-making strategies can be classified as more exploratory or more exploitative. I find that participants in a regulatory fit would exhibit more exploratory decision-making patterns than participants in a regulatory mismatch.
In Study 2 I examine how social pressure is related to approach and avoidance-based performance incentives using two types of category-learning tasks. I test the hypothesis that increasing performance pressure will induce an avoidance-based prevention focus which then interacts with the local mechanism of goal pursuit employed in the task (maximizing points gained or minimizing points lost). Participants either perform an explicit, rule-based category-learning task, or an implicit information-integration category-learning task. Behavioral and model-based analyses support the hypothesis that social pressure induces a prevention focus. When the pressure-induced prevention focus aligns with the local goal-pursuit mechanism participants perform better on the rule-based task, but worse on the information-integration task. Study 3 examines the effects of social pressure on categorization in highly-trained participants. Participants performed over 2500 training trials of either a rule-based or an information-integration category-learning task, and then performed another 640 trials after half received a manipulation designed to raise social pressure. Performance was worse on both the rule-based and information-integration task for participants who were under high social pressure compared to participants under low social pressure.
The results from all three projects suggest that motivational incentives have a large effect on cognitively demanding tasks.