Empirical Studies of Action—State Orientation

Although much has been written about PSI theory, there has been considerably less empirical research on ASO since its development. The lack of empirical research on this topic is partly attributable to measurement difficulties. Kuhl (1985) created the first self-report measure of ASO, the Action Control Scale (ACS), which was later revised by Kuhl and Beckmann (1994). Diefendorff et al. (2000) examined the factor structure and construct validity of the revised 1994 scale and found it lacking; consequently, they further modified the ACS measure beyond the edits made by Kuhl and Beckmann (1994). Most subsequent research on ASO uses the Diefendorff et al. (2000) version of the ACS.

Although ASO seems conceptually similar to other personality traits, several studies have shown that ASO is empirically distinct from traits like rumination, dispositional affect, goal orientation, self-efficacy, and atten- tional focus (Diefendorff, 2004; Diefendorff et al., 2000; Kuhl, 1994).

Further, ASO predicts many important outcomes. For example, in the workplace, action orientation is positively related to work attitudes and supervisor ratings of job performance (Diefendorff et al., 2000), and negatively related to job search intentions (Van Hooft, Born, Taris, Van der Flier, & Blonk, 2005). The hesitation dimension of ASO in particular is predictive of self-management at work, although job satisfaction and job involvement appear to moderate this relationship (Diefendorff, Richard, & Gosserand, 2006). Specifically, individuals low in hesitation performed better when routineness, satisfaction, or involvement was low when compared to those high in hesitation. ASO has received less attention in academic contexts, but one study found that the hesitation and volatility subscales of ASO related to academic effort (Jaramillo & Spector, 2004). In the decision-making literature, ASO predicts choices after a missed attractive opportunity (Van Putten, Zeelenberg, & Van Dijk, 2009) and the tendency to hold on to failing projects after experiencing a loss in money, effort, or time (Van Putten, Zeelenberg, & Van Dijk, 2010). Action-oriented individuals also demonstrate better cognitive control than state-oriented individuals under highly demanding conditions (Jostmann & Koole, 2007).

Despite the theorized role of affect in PSI theory, much has been left unexplored regarding ASO and affect. Of the small body of research that has empirically investigated this connection, some studies have found that action-oriented individuals are faster at regulating emotions. For example, action-oriented participants were found to be more efficient at downregulating implicit negative affect compared to state-oriented people (Koole & Fockenberg, 2011). Similarly, another study found state- oriented individuals to have longer latencies in intention initiation under low-positive affect conditions compared to action-oriented individuals (Krazen, Kaschel, & Kuhl, 2008). ASO also relates to recognizing positive emotion, as action-oriented individuals were quicker in detecting happy faces among angry crowds (Koole & Jostmann, 2004). While studies like these have begun to investigate the direct interplay between ASO and affect, none have examined the indirect effect of ASO on behavioral self-regulation via affective states. Further, no studies have examined the relationship between ASO, affect, and behavioral self-regulation longitudinally. This is an important oversight because of the within-person variance that can appear over time in studies of affective experiences and goal pursuit. Put simply, we know very little about how ASO relates to emotional experiences and self-regulation over time, especially in people’s natural environments.

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