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Impacts of Regulatory Fit

The next speaker at CMPM2014 is Daniel Laufer, whose interest is in regulatory fit. Is creating such regulatory fit always beneficial for candidates, parties, and governments? Research shows that persuasion is enhanced when a person's goal orientation and the manner in which the goal is pursued are in line with each other; in this, regulatory orientation may be focussed on promotion (aiming for awards for achievements) or prevention (avoiding punishment for failure).

In a political context, it may be assumed that conservatives are more focussed on prevention-, and progressives on promotion-style regulatory orientation. Targetting promotion-oriented voters would therefore use messages about improvements, while targetting prevention-oriented voters would highlight preventing the deterioration of the current situation. Creating such matching messages is creating regulatory fit.

Existing research has largely focussed on regulatory fit in positive messages, however, not on negative messages. Creating regulatory fit in the first example creates a "feeling right" effect in the voter, as the proposed course of action fits their orientation – and this good feeling is translated to the message. But this also means less attention is paid to the message. Alternatively, perhaps there is also an opportunity to generate greater active engagement, though?

This can be tested in a crisis communication context – e.g. with safety messages for motorists. Where participants in the study had low involvement with the company making their car, the opinion of the company is higher under regulatory fit; where involvement is high, the opinion of the company is lower under regulatory fit. Under high involvement, feeling right from regulatory fit increases confidence in evaluative judgments of the message target: negative reactions to the target become more negative, positive reactions more positive.