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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Approach-avoidance motivation across cultures Hamamura, Takeshi


People everywhere strive for an ideal view of the self, but the conception of “ideal” differs importantly across cultures. In Western societies, the ideal self entails the possession of high self-esteem, whereas in East Asian cultures the ideal self entails maintenance of “face,” or successful performance of social roles and obligations. Within each cultural context, aspirations for an ideal self are facilitated by a network of psychological processes. One such psychological process is approach and avoidance motivations: approach motivation is useful for Westerners’ pursuit of high self-esteem whereas avoidance motivation is useful for East Asians’ concerns for face maintenance. Review of prior research renders support to this theorizing. Because approach and avoidance motivations are fundamental psychological processes, cross-cultural research on this topic is a great venue for investigating the ways in which culture shapes psychological processes. This dissertation examines the implication of cultural differences in approach and avoidance motivations in two domains. Studies 1 and 2 investigated the motivational consequences of a fit between culturally encouraged motivation and focus of self-regulation that a task at hand calls for. In comparisons of Canadians and Japanese, these studies found that individuals’ motivation for a task is enhanced when culturally encouraged motivation matched with focus of self-regulation required for the task. The second set of studies (Study 3 and 4) examined cognitive consequences of approach-avoidance motivation cultural difference. These studies found that a type of information that people are attuned to differs as a function of cultural differences in approach-avoidance motivations. Implications of the findings and future directions are discussed.

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