People approach pleasure and avoid pain. To discover the true nature of approach-avoidance motivation, psychologists need to move beyond this hedonic principle to the principles that underlie the different ways that it operates. One such principle is regulatory focus, which distinguishes self-regulation with a promotion focus (accomplishments and aspirations) from self-regulation with a prevention focus (safety and responsibilities). This principle is used to reconsider the fundamental nature of approach-avoidance, expectancy-value relations, and emotional and evaluative sensitivities. Both types of regulatory focus are applied to phenomena that have been treated in terms of either promotion (e.g., well-being) or prevention (e.g., cognitive dissonance). Then, regulatory focus is distinguished from regulatory anticipation and regulatory reference, 2 other principles underlying the different ways that people approach pleasure and avoid pain.
Tory Higgins, E. "Beyond Pleasure and Pain." American Psychologist 52, no. 12 (1997): 1280-1300.
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