The Role of Epistemic Motivation in the Link between Arousal and Focus of Attention
Kruglanski, Arie W
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Over 60 years of research has led to a law-like acceptance of the Easterbrook (1959) hypothesis. Easterbrook (1959) famously reviewed the evidence on the arousal-attention link and concluded that as arousal increases, the range of cues utilized decreases, and the focus of attention narrows. However, the present set of eight studies suggests that the Easterbrook hypothesis needs to be seriously qualified. Recent developments in the understanding of the role of arousal in information processing suggests that rather than invariably leading to a focus of attention, arousal instead serves as information regarding the urgency and/or importance of active processing strategies (Storbeck & Clore, 2008). Because some processing strategies lead to a broadening of attention, arousal should sometimes be negatively related to a focusing of attention. A first set of four studies investigated the need for closure as it relates to the arousal-attention link. The need for closure refers to the motivation to make quick, firm judgments, and has been shown to lead to the use of fewer available cues. Because of this, it seems that the need for closure should lead to a tendency to focus one's attention. However, when need for closure is low, individuals tend to process more available cues, broadening attention in order to avoid reaching premature closure. The results indicate that when individuals are high on the need for closure, arousal is positively related to focus of attention, whereas when individuals are low on the need for closure, arousal is negatively related to focus of attention. A second set of four studies investigated the influence of the regulatory modes of locomotion and assessment on the arousal-attention link. Because locomotion is oriented towards movement, it should lead to a focus of attention. Because assessment is oriented towards making evaluations based on comparisons among alternatives, it should lead to a broadening of attention. The results show that when a locomotion mode is active, arousal is positively related to focus of attention, whereas, when an assessment mode is active, arousal is negatively related to focus of attention.