Concrete Resolve: How Concrete Mindset Spurs Approach Motivation and Improves Task Persistence and Performance for Behaviourally Inhibited People
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This dissertation examines the motivational consequences of concrete mindset, e.g., thinking about specific details of how to do things (vs. why). The guiding premise is that concrete mindset initiates a motivational state that can carry forward to affect success on subsequent tasks, even those that are unrelated to the initial task. For example, according to my general hypothesis, thinking concretely about making a shopping list (vs. bigger questions about shopping priorities) would cause motivational changes conducive to more persistence at the gym. Theory guiding my work suggests that these effects are especially effective for individuals high in behavioural inhibition system (BIS) activation whom are vulnerable to overwhelming, conflicting action-tendencies (Hirsh, Mar, & Peterson, 2012; Harmon-Jones, Amodio, & Harmon-Jones, 2009). These conflicting action-tendencies detract from the ability to persistently pursue goals (e.g., Harmon-Jones & Harmon-Jones, 2008). Given that a concrete mindset induces a narrow-minded focus, and emphasizes specific behaviours, (Trope & Liberman, 2003) it may shield those high in BIS activation from conflict to enable persistence. This dissertation probes the basic motivational states induced by a concrete mindset which can assist those experiencing high BIS activation. I provide evidence that this motivational process occurs through approach motivation and its ability to mute the BIS and spur greater persistence. Findings converge on the idea that for behaviourally inhibited people, concrete mindset liberates tenacious persistence by activating a transient state of approach motivation, causing lasting reductions in behavioural inhibition. In five experiments (N = 738), I found that concrete mindset exercises in non-focal domains heighten approach motivation and helped people high in state (Study 1) and trait (Studies 2-4) behavioral inhibition become more persistent in focal tasks. Concrete (vs. abstract) mindset helped them persist and generate more joules of energy on a bicycle endurance task (Study 1). It heightened their persistence on data entry and hand-squeeze tasks (Studies 2 and 3), and increased their determination to accomplish self-generated personal projects (Study 4). Concrete mindset also heightened approach motivation as assessed by electroencephalography (Study 3) and self-reported behavioral activation (Study 4). In Study 5, I manipulated the presumed mediator (approach motivation) and found that it caused lasting reductions in BIS activation which mediated the effects on persistence. Results are interpreted from the perspective of theory and research linking approach-motivated states with single-minded mental narrowing, freedom from conflict, uncertainty, and behavioral inhibition (Harmon-Jones et al., 2009; McNaughton & Corr, 2008). Clinical implications are also discussed.
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Alexander Tran (2018). Concrete Resolve: How Concrete Mindset Spurs Approach Motivation and Improves Task Persistence and Performance for Behaviourally Inhibited People. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/13730