Strategic engagement regulation: an integration of self-enhancement and engagement

Leitner, Jordan B.
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University of Delaware
While research has shown that people are motivated to view themselves in a positive light, the mechanisms of self-enhancement are poorly understood. The current research hypothesized that individuals self-enhance by increasing engagement following positive outcomes and decreasing engagement following negative outcomes, a system called strategic engagement regulation. The current work presents a theoretical model and three studies that examine the underlying motivations, behavioral consequences, and neurocognitive mechanisms of this regulatory system. Results supported aspects of the theoretical model, as individuals motivated to self-enhance showed disengagement following negative feedback, which in turn predicted positive mental states (Study 1). Additionally, negative feedback diminished engagement to feedback, which in turn, predicted engagement to the broader domain (Study 2). Finally, when viewing negative feedback, greater motivation to strategically disengage predicted decreased alpha oscillations in the medial prefrontal cortex, which in turn predicted self-enhancing perceptions (Study 3). Together, this research suggests that strategic engagement regulation is an important aspect of self-enhancement.