Indifferent reactions: regulatory responses to the apathy of others.
How do people react to indifference when they see it in others? In 5 studies we examined how people may respond to it as a cue to disengage when they lack sufficient commitment to a goal or task themselves. Across the studies, participants were either exposed to cues implying an absence of motivation or not, after which their own goal-directed motivation was assessed. Results indicated that participants were likely to behaviorally assimilate indifference when it was directed toward a relevant goal (Studies 1 and 3) and they were not very committed to the goal (Studies 2a-b, 3, 5). Corresponding self-report data suggested that exposure to indifference generally discouraged and obstructed goal pursuit in the participants' minds (Studies 4-5). However, participants overcame the indifference when their commitment to the goal was chronically high or experimentally heightened, with the corresponding self-report data suggesting a process of increased monitoring and counteraction. In these studies, we also distinguished goal commitment from goal accessibility: Whereas a manipulation of goal commitment seemed to facilitate overcoming indifference (Study 5), a manipulation of goal accessibility did not (Study 4). In sum, a potentially insidious feature of indifference may be that people assimilate it not because they want to but because it exploits their preexisting doubts about the goal or their general openness to disengaging from it.
Leander, NP; Shah, JY; Sanders, S
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