Determinants of Systematic Behavioral Control

Having established the parameters and attributes of the two systems of the RIM and their parallel effects on behavior, we turn to explaining possible determinants of either system’s dominance over the other in having these effects. If it is possible to identify variables that can affect which system determines behavior, one can vastly improve the predictive power of the RIM for behavior. Because the impulsive system is always active and processing, this question can be rephrased: Under what circumstances will the reflective system assert behavioral control when in conflict with the impulsive system?

Motivation and Opportunity

Fazio (1990) describes two modes of thinking—a spontaneous processing mode based on attitude accessibility, and a deliberative processing mode based on attitude behavior. These modes of thinking are remarkably similar in structure to the RIM’s proposed systems, certain differences in mechanisms notwithstanding. Therefore, the MODE model (Fazio, 1990), which predicts when the deliberative mode will be engaged in processing the possible consequences of behavior, may be applicable to the RIM as well. In this conceptualization, engagement in deliberative processing depends on motivation and opportunity. Motivation in the MODE model is generated by the fear of invalidity (Kruglanski & Freund, 1983), a function of the perceived costliness of a judgmental mistake to the self, whereas opportunity is a function of the available time and resources for processing. Applying this framework to the RIM, one finds that the defined properties of the reflective system are in accord with these predictions. Reflective processing is accompanied by a feeling of subjective effort and so requires motivation, whereas both the reliance on the resources of working memory and the relatively slow speed of the reflective system make it clear that the reflective system can influence behavior only if the opportunity is given.

Evidence for this dependence on opportunity exists in many domains. Cognitive load, a manipulation often used to impair deliberative processing, has been applied in various different studies whose results can be explained with the RIM. Selfcontrol (e.g., Lattimore & Maxwell, 2004; Wegner, Erber, & Zanakos, 1993), processing of negated stimuli (Deutsch et al. 2009), social judgments and attributions (Gilbert et al., 1988; Krull & Erickson, 1995; Trope & Alfieri, 1997), moral j udgments (Greene, Morelli, Lowenberg, Nystrom, & Cohen, 2008), and general reasoning (De Neys, 2006) have all proven to be impaired by cognitive load in ways that are consistent with the RIM’s predictions. The idea that working memory resources may also play a role in reflective processing has been tested in several studies, both by comparing individuals with dispositionally high or low working memory capacities (Hofmann, Gschwendner, Friese, Wiers, & Schmitt, 2008; Thush et al., 2008) and by specifically taxing resources of working memory (Deutsch et al., 2009). The conceptualization of working memory as “a domain-free limitation in ability to control attention” (Engle, 2002, p. 19) points to the conclusion that the effects of attentional cognitive load manipulations on reflective processing may be mediated by working memory capacity.

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