Love Makes the Daredevil, Mating Mindset and Proactive Tendency: An Abstract
Individuals have the inflated preference for options that do not require action (i.e., default option), a phenomenon known as the “omission bias” (Anderson, 2003; Spranca, Minsk, & Baron, 1991). An example of the omission bias is the vaccination experiment (Ritov & Baron, 1995). Suppose children are exposed to a fatal flu while an inexpensive vaccine is available to the public to prevent the flu, but the vaccine itself carries a rare chance of fatality. In anticipation of knowing the outcome of deaths, most participants would choose not taking the vaccine (omission). Literature generally agrees that omission bias is linked to the aversion to anticipated regret (Anderson, 2003; Zeelenberg et al., 2002). Individuals regret unfortunate outcomes that result from actions more than identical outcomes resulting from omission. Compared to maintaining the status quo, actions require more justification which signals an individual’s responsibility for the outcome. As a result, in the case of an unfavorable outcome, the individual is more likely to experience self-blame (Baron & Ritov, 2004; Spranca et al., 1991; Zeelenberg & Pieters, 2007; Zeelenberg et al., 2002).
We propose and demonstrate that the romantic motive mitigates and, in some cases, reverses the omission bias, and this effect is driven by a shift in regulatory focus. Evolutionary psychology suggests that humans with short-term mating goals have the incentive to maximize their exposure to suitable candidates of the opposite sex, a motivation that we argue would lead to the promotion focus (Crow, Higgins & Hall, 1997). In turn, it has been documented that individuals with a promotion focus tend to regret over opportunity forgone in comparison to those with a prevention focus (Roese, Hur & Pennington, 1999).
In experiment 1 we demonstrate that individuals become more likely to take actions against the status quo, a behavior opposite to the omission bias. In this experiment we also parse out the confound between action-against-default and risk-taking behavior. In experiments 2 and 3, we use mediation analyses to show that activation of short-term mating goal indeed invokes a heightened promotion focus and regret related to foregone opportunities, both of which lead to “action-against-default” type of change in shopping patterns. Finally, in experiment 4, we demonstrate that redirecting individuals’ attention to the potential change in their regulatory focus after the activation of mating mindset mitigates the action-against-default effect.