The Effects of Loss of Control on Risk Taking


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WIMMER, Birgit, 2011. The Effects of Loss of Control on Risk Taking [Dissertation]. Konstanz: University of Konstanz

@phdthesis{Wimmer2011Effec-17264, title={The Effects of Loss of Control on Risk Taking}, year={2011}, author={Wimmer, Birgit}, address={Konstanz}, school={Universität Konstanz} }

2013-11-14T23:25:05Z Given the ongoing, rapid development in today’s modern society, the circumstances of our daily lives as well as our everyday working and living conditions are continuously and quickly changing and are characterized by increasing complexity. This poses a great challenge to the people who have to constantly orient and adapt to new living and working conditions. In this sense, experiences of uncertainty and uncontrollability can become a frequent part of our everyday lives, and dealing with experiences of a lack of control can be considered a key competence for living in modern societies; the more so as uncontrollable events obstruct people’s fundamental need to perceive themselves as competent and capable persons who are in control of relevant situations, actions, and outcomes. Besides the fact that experiences of uncontrollability conflict with this need and are known to be related to a broad range of negative outcomes with respect to emotions, motivation, and behavior, maintaining one’s ability to immediately continue with daily business is necessary. As one frequent and important aspect of our personal and professional lives is to decide between alternatives with unpredictable or chance-related outcomes, the present dissertation aimed to investigate the effects of subjective loss of control experiences on subsequent risk-related decision making. With experiences of lacking control and decisions under risk being a common occurrence in everyday life, this question bears wide theoretical and practical relevance, but nevertheless has not received much attention in research so far.<br />The theoretical framework of this dissertation is based on the well-established model of control beliefs by Skinner, Chapman and Baltes (1988) which proposes that subjective loss of control experiences can arise from impairments in different aspects of contingency relations between persons (agents), their behavior (means), and their outcomes (ends). Furthermore, the nature of the consequences elicited by subjective loss of control experiences for risk-related decisions is generally considered to be influenced by the character of prior experiences and their subjective cognitive appraisals. For example, subjective loss of control due to personal failure or lack of ability to meet the requirements is assumed to exert different effects on future decision making than subjective loss of control due to changes in external conditions lying outside one’s own accountability. To this end, the effects of subjective loss of control experiences on risk taking were investigated in two separate sets of studies, each focusing on one specific cause. Study I concentrated on the effects of distortions in the relation between characteristics of a given task (difficulty) and the individual’s capability, thus capturing the agent-means relation. In contrast, Study II investigated the impact of subjective loss of control due to changes in external conditions within the relation between means and ends.<br />In a set of two pilot and two main experiments, Study I investigated the effect of subjective loss of control, referring to the agent-means relation, on subsequent risk propensity. Making allowance for the lack of existing appropriate experimental designs, a one factorial pre-post experimental-control group paradigm was first developed and tested within the two pilot experimental studies (N1 = 34, 74% female; N2 = 42,<br />50% female). This set of studies aimed at inducing subjective loss of control in reference to the relation between the task and people’s capabilities to fulfill it within an experimental incentive-related computer-game setting by gradually increasing the task difficulty. In the two main experimental studies the paradigm was applied to investigate the effects of difficulty-related subjective loss of control on risk propensity. In order to capture the decision-making process in more detail, the two main experimental studies focused on the effects on risk perceptions with respect to a case vignette (N = 50,<br />50% female) and actual risk-taking behavior (N = 47, 49% female), respectively, thus assessing both a cognitive and behavioral indicator of risk propensity. Supporting the hypotheses, prior subjective loss of control experiences affected subsequent risk-related decision making in terms of decreasing risk propensity. Results demonstrated increased levels of risk perceptions and decreased risk-taking behavior following the experimentally induced subjective loss of control experiences. As the risk-related decision was objectively unrelated to the prior subjective loss of control experiences, these results further argue for their spillover effects on subsequent decision-making contexts beyond the initial setting where they are elicited.<br />Study II focused on another cause of subjective loss of control, that is, the relation between means and ends due to changes in external control conditions. As both Study I and Study II deal with the same basic research aim, namely, examining the effects of subjective loss of control experiences on risk-related decision making, the settings of the two studies were intended to be as similar as possible in order to allow for comparisons between the two studies. To this end, in a pilot study (N = 44, 50% female) the newly developed experimental design of Study I was adapted to the specific objective of<br />Study II, leaving the experimental settings identical with only the one critical aspect of interest differing between the designs. As the subjective loss of control experiences were intended to be attributed externally toward changes in objectively given control, the accuracy with which the participants’ actions during the computer-game setting were implemented into the game was gradually decreased, thus generating a lack of control due to changes in the relations between behavior (means) and outcomes (ends). At the same time – in contrast to Study I – the task difficulty remained stable on a relatively low level. The effects of the hereby induced externally attributable subjective loss of control experiences on risk-related decisions were investigated by assessing actual risk-taking behavior in a computer-game setting. To further deepen the understanding of the processes by which prior subjective loss of control experiences impact risk taking,<br />Study II additionally pursued two other research questions in its two main experiments. By proposing that spillover effects impact subsequent, objectively unrelated settings, the question of the linking pathways arises. Considering the importance of control appraisals in the emergence of emotions, Study II explored their influence as a possible linking variable in this relationship. More precisely, since the experimental design was assumed to arouse anger – an emotion commonly regarded as elicited by experiences where one’s goal attainment has been blocked by externally attributable causes similar to the present experimental manipulation – the role of anger as a mediating mechanism in the relationship between subjective loss of control and risk taking was investigated. Furthermore, the issue of cross-cultural generalizability of the proposed relationships was tackled by investigating and comparing samples from two different cultural backgrounds, namely from Germany (N = 84, 54% female) and China (N = 125,<br />64% female). Results in both samples consistently showed that the externally attributed subjective loss of control considerably impacted subsequent risk-taking behavior. More specifically, risk propensity was increased following externally caused subjective loss of control and this effect was explained by the mediating role of anger. Thus, the experimental manipulation of the means-ends relation did not only induce subjective loss of control experiences, but also aroused anger which in turn let people act riskier in the subsequent decision-making setting. Based on theoretical models, anger’s encouraging effect towards risk-taking behavior might be due to its habitually accompanying high certainty and control appraisals which seem to work even after experiences of uncontrollability. Moreover, multiple group comparisons revealed similar patterns of results in both the German and Chinese sample affirming the findings’ cross-cultural generalizability.<br />In summation, both studies provided empirical evidence for the impact of subjective loss of control experiences on subsequent risk-related decisions. Though the studies dealt with two different aspects of control beliefs due to objectively differing experimental manipulations that focused either on the agent-means relation (Study I) or means-ends relation (Study II), risk-related cognitions and behavior were shown to be strongly impacted by preceding experiences of personal control. However, with the two studies reporting opposite – decreasing (Study I) versus increasing (Study II) – effects on risk taking, the relevance of the perceived causes of uncontrollability is highlighted as they are considered to shape its consequences. A possible general advantage of perceiving the causes of uncontrollability in a certain way in order to contribute to ideal future risk taking cannot be stated per se, however, making people aware of the effects that experiences of subjective loss of control, their attributed causes, and resulting emotions can exert on risk-related decisions appears most promising from a more applied perspective. The major strengths of this dissertation include the investigation of several aspects of subjective loss of control effects from different perspectives, as well as the methodological contribution of developing and successfully testing new experimental paradigms for inducing subjective loss of control experiences which provide various possibilities for adaptation to related research objectives and whose cross-cultural applicability has already been demonstrated. Several suggestions for future research and practice, especially including a more detailed focus on the effects of emotions and on the results’ transferability to more applied settings and real life, are offered. Wimmer, Birgit The Effects of Loss of Control on Risk Taking 2011 eng terms-of-use Wimmer, Birgit 2011-12-05T10:56:54Z

Dateiabrufe seit 01.10.2014 (Informationen über die Zugriffsstatistik)

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