Promotion vs. Prevention Regulatory Focus in Physical Therapy Students
Effective communication that encourages patient participation and maximizes rehabilitation outcomes is a primary goal in physical therapy (PT) education. A framework that provides insight into individual conceptualization of rehabilitation goals and strategies is Regulatory Focus Theory, which examines motivation stemming from two self-regulatory systems: promotion (i.e., concerns with nurturance, progress, and attaining gains vs. non-gains) and prevention (i.e., concerns with security, safety,
... and maintaining non-losses vs. losses). We distributed questionnaires assessing promotion (vs. prevention) predominance both personally and in a rehabilitation context, as well as sociodemographic data, to 116 Doctor of Physical Therapy students. On average, students were promotion (vs. prevention) predominant in their personal lives, with predominance scores varying as a function of sex. Males exhibited a predominant personal promotion focus, while females showed a relative balance between personal promotion versus prevention concerns. In contrast, when framed as working with patients in a rehabilitation context, females demonstrated a promotion focus, whereas promotion and prevention concerns were balanced in males. As suggested by these differences, we found that males and females demonstrated significant shifts in regulatory focus in a goal-setting rehabilitation (vs. personal) context in opposing directions, with females becoming more promotion-predominant and males becoming more prevention-predominant. Additionally, regulatory focus in a rehabilitation context varied as a function of students' race/ethnicity, reason for choosing PT, and student year. Further studies are needed to investigate how PT curriculum influences motivational predilections in clinical settings, as well as to identify the impact of these motives on patient rehabilitation outcomes.