The role of attention in motivated behavior

Gaurav Suri, James J. Gross
2015 Journal of experimental psychology. General  
All too frequently, people fail to take actions that are in their best interest (e.g., not taking necessary medications). Researchers have attempted to explain such behaviors by identifying subtle motivational forces that foster an avoidance of attractive outcomes. However, in many cases, such motivational forces have been difficult to identify. We propose that failures such as these to act in valued ways are in some cases caused by insufficient levels of orienting attention. To test this
more » ... To test this hypothesis, we first created a laboratory analog of real-world failures to act in valued ways, 1 in which participants persisted in viewing lower-valenced images even though they could have, at no cost, viewed a higher-valenced image. When we experimentally increased their orienting attention toward a caption stating they had the option to switch, participants more frequently elected to view the higher valenced image (Studies 1a-c). In real-world behavioral contexts, increasing attention, without an apparent change in valuation, also led to increased levels of approach motivation in behavioral contexts involving purchasing apples (Study 2) and electing to take the stairs instead of the escalator (Studies 3a-c). In light of these findings, we consider the role of orienting attention in motivated behavior.
doi:10.1037/xge0000088 pmid:26097978 fatcat:snx4gne45ncvjkfzdata3k72f4