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Social networks and subjective well-being: Regulatory fit between self-regulation and network structure

Xi Zou, 2008
Faculty Advisor: E. Tory Higgins
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What type of social network is associated with greater well-being? I argue that the effects of social networks on well-being depend on individuals' self-regulatory orientation--a basic motivational factor. Drawing on relevant literature on social networks and well-being, I conclude that prior studies present two sets of competing evidence on the effects of social network: some evidence suggests the benefit of closure networks, whereas other evidence suggests the benefit of brokerage networks. I propose that brokerage networks fit a promotion-focused orientation concerned with the eager pursuit of gains, whereas closure networks fit a prevention-focused orientation concerned with the vigilant prevention of losses.


In four studies, evidence supports that brokerage networks have a positive effect on well-being for promotion-focused people, whereas closure networks have a positive effect on well-being for prevention-focused people. Study 1 is a meta-analysis summarizing prior evidence on social network structure and subjective well-being. Study 2 focuses on the interaction between regulatory focus and network structures in predicting well-being measures, including general life satisfaction and sleep quality. Study 3 further unpacks the interaction findings, testing whether people seek social supports and social capital from different social contacts situated in different parts of the social networks and whether social supports and social capital mediate the network effect on well-being. Study 4 examines the causal relation by experimentally manipulating individuals' regulatory focus orientations. Together, this thesis provides a theoretical account, as well as empirical evidence, for identifying which social networks are beneficial to individuals' well-being, given their self-regulatory orientations

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