In 5 studies, we investigated the relation between regulatory focus and the tendency to copy a role model’s managing behavior after one experiences this behavior as its recipient and later takes on the same managing role. Because enacting role-related behaviors fulfills interpersonal norms that fit prevention concerns, we predicted a stronger tendency to copy among individuals with a stronger prevention focus on duties and obligations (“oughts”) but not among those with a stronger promotion focus on aspirations and advancements (ideals). We also predicted that individuals with a stronger prevention focus would tend to copy a managing behavior regardless of their earlier hedonic experience with this behavior as its recipient. These predictions were first supported in 2 experimental studies, where a stronger prevention focus was measured as a chronic disposition (Study 1) and experimentally induced as a temporary state (Study 2). Further, we tested the mechanism underlying the relation between stronger prevention and stronger copying and found that concerns about the normativeness, but not the effectiveness, of a managing behavior motivated copying for individuals with a strong prevention focus (Studies 3 and 4). We generalized these experimental results to the field by surveying a sample of superior-subordinate dyads in real world organizations (Study 5). Across all studies, we found that individuals with a stronger prevention focus tend to copy more a role model’s managing behavior — independent of their hedonic satisfaction with the behavior as its recipient and their perception of its effectiveness.
Zhang, Shu, E. Tory Higgins, and Guoquan Chen. "Managing Others Like You Were Managed: How Prevention Focus Motivates Copying Interpersonal Norms." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 100, no. 4 (2011): 647-663.
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