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Journal ArticleDOI

Passionately motivated reasoning: Biased processing of passion-threatening messages.

01 Jun 2019-Journal of Personality (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd (10.1111))-Vol. 87, Iss: 3, pp 518-531
TL;DR: Harmonious passion entails a sense of autonomy and control over activity engagement, which usually leads to nondefensive behavior, however, this sense of control may elicit more defensive responses from more harmoniously passionate individuals when the decision itself to pursue an activity is under attack.
Abstract: OBJECTIVE When facing setbacks and obstacles, the dualistic model of passion outlines that obsessive passion, and not harmonious passion, will predict greater levels of defensiveness. Our aim was to determine whether these passion dimensions predicted defensiveness in the same way when confronted with threatening messages targeting the decision to pursue a passion. METHOD Across four studies with passionate Facebook users, hockey fans, and runners (total N = 763), participants viewed messages giving reasons why their favorite activity should not be pursued. Participants either reported their desire to read the messages (Studies 1 and 2) or evaluated the messages after reading them (Studies 3 and 4). RESULTS Harmonious passion consistently predicted higher levels of avoidance or negative evaluations of the messages. These responses were attenuated for participants who had previously affirmed an important value (Study 1), or who were told that they do not control the passions they pursue (Study 4). CONCLUSIONS Harmonious passion entails a sense of autonomy and control over activity engagement, which usually leads to nondefensive behavior. However, this sense of control may elicit more defensive responses from more harmoniously passionate individuals when the decision itself to pursue an activity is under attack.

Summary (2 min read)

Introduction

  • The authors aim was to determine if these passion dimensions predicted defensiveness in the same way when confronted with threatening messages targeting the decision to pursue a passion.
  • Across four studies with passionate Facebook users, hockey fans, and runners (total N = 763), participants viewed messages giving reasons why their favorite activity should not be pursued, also known as Method.
  • The authors demonstrate that there is an exception to this rule – that is, a situation in which HP, not OP, predicts greater defensive behavior.

The Dualistic Model of Passion

  • In their seminal article introducing the dualistic model of passion, Vallerand and colleagues (2003, p. 757) defined passion as “a strong inclination toward an activity that people like, that they find important, and in which they invest time and energy”.
  • The dualistic model distinguishes between two forms of passion based on how the object of one’s passion is internalized into the self.
  • An HP emerges when a passionate activity has been autonomously internalized into one’s identity, meaning that the activity is congruent with one’s personal values and is performed without any contingencies attached to it (Ryan & Deci, 2002; Vallerand, 2015).
  • An OP emerges when the activity has been internalized in a more controlled and less self-determined way, meaning that the activity is performed because of the external or internal contingencies that are connected with it (Ryan & Deci, 2002).
  • With OP, the individual feels pressured to engage in the activity, which can lead to conflict between the passion activity and other life domains (Vallerand, 2015).

Challenging Passions

  • Passionate people spend a significant amount of time and energy engaging in their favorite activities, and are thus likely to encounter obstacles, threats, and adversity while pursuing them.
  • An OP is posited to predict increased defensiveness and self-protective responses when faced with threat (Vallerand, 2010), due to the dominant role that passions occupy in the identities of those with high levels of OP.
  • Given that the identities of highly obsessive people rely more strongly on their passion, these people should also be more inclined to engage in self-protective behavior in situations when passion-related goals are threatened.
  • The autonomous functioning that is characteristic of an HP allows people with high HP to be open to ongoing experiences and to face difficult times with flexibility, mindfulness, and desire to interpret them accurately (Hodgins & Knee, 2002; Vallerand, 2015).
  • Self-affirmation theory predicts that challenging information can be rendered less threatening when the self has been previously affirmed or bolstered in other non-threatened domains (Steele, 1988; for a review, see Sherman & Cohen, 2006).

The Present Research

  • The authors conducted four studies to test their hypothesis that levels of HP toward an activity would predict greater levels of biased responses when confronted with messages that directly target the value or appropriateness of pursuing an activity.
  • In all four studies, different groups of passionate people were presented with messages arguing that they should stop pursing their passionate activity because it is harmful either to themselves or to others.
  • These exploratory analyses are reported in the supplementary file.
  • The authors obtained ethics approval for each study prior to data collection, and all participants provided informed consent.

Method

  • The authors invited runners to complete an online survey about attitudes toward running-related issues.
  • In fact, many people say that their passions chose them!.
  • Participants were then instructed to continue to the next page of the online survey.
  • Participants in this pilot study were randomly assigned to report their attitudes toward a series of either strong or weak arguments about why people should stop running.
  • These participants rated the strong versions of the four arguments selected for the current study as being significantly more believable, likely to be true, convincing, and stronger overall compared to the weak versions.

Results and Discussion

  • The authors first aim was to replicate the effects obtained in the previous studies by analyzing the relationship between HP and argument favorability among participants who were not given any information regarding passion control.
  • Harmonious passion, obsessive passion, and responses to passion-related failure.
  • Economic Impact Running is such a tiring and time-consuming activity that it can cause people to have less energy and motivation for their careers, also known as Argument #3.

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Running head: PASSIONATELY MOTIVATED REASONING 1
Passionately Motivated Reasoning: Biased Processing of Passion-Threatening Messages
Benjamin J. I. Schellenberg and Daniel S. Bailis
Department of Psychology, University of Manitoba
Author Note
Benjamin Schellenberg is now in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management
at the University of Manitoba. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to
Benjamin Schellenberg, ben.schellenberg@umanitoba.ca
We thank Denise Geiskkovitch for her assistance with the experimental sessions reported
in Studies 1 and 3.
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Schellenberg, B. J. I., & Bailis,
D. S. (2019). Passionately motivated reasoning: Biased processing of passion‐threatening
messages. Journal of Personality, 87(3), 518531, which has been published in final form at
https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12412. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in
accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.

PASSIONATELY MOTIVATED REASONING 2
Abstract
Objective: When facing setbacks and obstacles, the dualistic model of passion outlines that
obsessive passion, and not harmonious passion, will predict greater levels of defensiveness
(Vallerand, 2015). Our aim was to determine if these passion dimensions predicted
defensiveness in the same way when confronted with threatening messages targeting the decision
to pursue a passion.
Method: Across four studies with passionate Facebook users, hockey fans, and runners (total N
= 763), participants viewed messages giving reasons why their favorite activity should not be
pursued. Participants either reported their desire to read the messages (Studies 1 and 2) or
evaluated the messages after reading them (Studies 3 and 4).
Results: Harmonious passion consistently predicted higher levels of avoidance or negative
evaluations of the messages. These responses were attenuated for participants who had
previously affirmed an important value (Study 1), or who were told that they do not control the
passions they pursue (Study 4).
Conclusions: Harmonious passion entails a sense of autonomy and control over activity
engagement, which usually leads to non-defensive behavior. However, this sense of control may
elicit more defensive responses from more harmoniously passionate individuals when the
decision itself to pursue an activity is under attack.
Keywords: motivation; self-determination; coping; control; defensiveness

PASSIONATELY MOTIVATED REASONING 3
People often face adversity while pursuing their passions. According to much research
on passion, however, the extent to which they respond with defensiveness and self-protective
behavior depends on their predominant passion type. The dualistic model of passion (Vallerand,
2010, 2015) distinguishes between two varieties of passion: harmonious passion (HP) and
obsessive passion (OP). When obstacles are confronted while pursuing a passion, it is OP, not
HP, that has been shown to predict greater levels of defensive behavior including aggression
(Donahue, Rip, & Vallerand, 2009; Philippe, Vallerand, Richer, Vallières, & Bergeron, 2009;
Rip, Vallerand, & Lafrenière, 2012), appraisals of threat and uncontrollability (Schellenberg &
Bailis, 2016), improving performance as a means of restoring one’s self-concept (Bélanger,
Lafrenière, Vallerand, & Kruglanski, 2013a), and using coping efforts oriented toward avoidance
and withdrawal (Rip, Fortin, & Vallerand, 2006; Schellenberg & Bailis, 2016; Schellenberg,
Bailis, & Crocker, 2013; Schellenberg, Gaudreau, & Crocker, 2013). HP, on the other hand, has
not predicted self-protective responses in any of the situations tested so far.
In this article, we demonstrate that there is an exception to this rule that is, a situation in
which HP, not OP, predicts greater defensive behavior. This exception occurs when people are
confronted with reasons why their passion should not be pursued. The teenager with a passion
for going on Facebook might hear that using Facebook can have negative consequences for his
psychological well-being (Sifferlin, 2013). The office worker who is passionate for her job
might read about the adverse health consequences linked with prolonged sedentary behavior
(Lunau, 2012). The hockey player who dreams of becoming a professional might learn about the
long-term consequences of concussions (Goodman, Gaetz, & Meichenbaum, 2001). Instead of
blocking engagement in a passionate activity, these types of messages threaten the choice to
pursue a passion in the first place. In the present research, we placed the decision to pursue a

PASSIONATELY MOTIVATED REASONING 4
passion under attack. Our guiding question was whether individuals with more HP would react
more defensively to these situations and respond with more avoidance and negative evaluations
of passion-threatening messages.
The Dualistic Model of Passion
In their seminal article introducing the dualistic model of passion, Vallerand and
colleagues (2003, p. 757) defined passion as “a strong inclination toward an activity that people
like, that they find important, and in which they invest time and energy”. After over a decade of
research adopting the dualistic model, Vallerand (2015) refined this definition and identified
seven dimensions that characterize passion and distinguish it from other related constructs, such
as flow, grit, and intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: passion is directed toward specific entities or
objects, including activities, objects, people, ideas, and causes; passion involves feelings of love
toward the object; people find their passionate activities to be highly meaningful and valuable in
their lives; passion is motivational rather than emotional in nature; passion leads people to strive
toward the object with high levels of intensity and persistence; passionate activities become
incorporated into people’s identities; and finally, passion is a dualistic construct.
It is this final element, the duality of passion, which has received the most attention in
passion research. The dualistic model distinguishes between two forms of passion based on how
the object of one’s passion is internalized into the self. An HP emerges when a passionate
activity has been autonomously internalized into one’s identity, meaning that the activity is
congruent with one’s personal values and is performed without any contingencies attached to it
(Ryan & Deci, 2002; Vallerand, 2015). With HP, the activity is freely incorporated into one’s
identity and the individual engages in the activity without any pressure to do so. This allows the
passion to become an important, but not overpowering, component of the individual that is in

PASSIONATELY MOTIVATED REASONING 5
harmony with other aspects of the individual’s life (Vallerand et al., 2003). An OP emerges
when the activity has been internalized in a more controlled and less self-determined way,
meaning that the activity is performed because of the external or internal contingencies that are
connected with it (Ryan & Deci, 2002). With OP, the individual feels pressured to engage in the
activity, which can lead to conflict between the passion activity and other life domains
(Vallerand, 2015).
Challenging Passions
Passionate people spend a significant amount of time and energy engaging in their
favorite activities, and are thus likely to encounter obstacles, threats, and adversity while
pursuing them. The dualistic model posits that the impact of these setbacks on passionate
individuals depends on whether their passion is more harmonious or obsessive. An OP is posited
to predict increased defensiveness and self-protective responses when faced with threat
(Vallerand, 2010), due to the dominant role that passions occupy in the identities of those with
high levels of OP. This premise has been supported by research examining the extent to which
highly obsessive people derive their identities from their passions (Mageau et al., 2009; Rip et
al., 2012; Rousseau, Vallerand, Ratelle, Mageau, & Provencher, 2002), the self-relevant
outcomes that are contingent on performance in the passion activity (Lafrenière, St-Louis,
Vallerand, & Donahue, 2012; Mageau, Carpentier, & Vallerand, 2011), and the finding that OP
predicts rigid persistence and preoccupation with an activity (Rip et al., 2006; Vallerand et al.,
2003, Study 3). Given that the identities of highly obsessive people rely more strongly on their
passion, these people should also be more inclined to engage in self-protective behavior in
situations when passion-related goals are threatened. Although passionate activities are also
important components of the identities of people with a predominantly HP, these people

Citations
More filters
01 Jan 2013
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors examined if harmonious and obsessive passion for watching hockey were differentially related to stress experiences during the 2012-2013 National Hockey League (NHL) lockout, and found that obsessive passion was positively associated with stress appraisals, most types of coping, and with avoiding information about the lockout.
Abstract: Sports fans are often passionate for their favourite team, league, or sport. However, the quality of engagement in a passion depends greatly on whether the passion is more harmonious or obsessive (Vallerand et al., 2003). Research has examined how both passion types are related to components of the stress process (Schellenberg, Gaudreau, & Crocker, 2013), and the purpose of this research was to study how passionate fans had appraised and coped with a rare setback: the postponement of their favourite sport. We examined if harmonious and obsessive passion for watching hockey were differentially related to stress experiences during the 2012-2013 National Hockey League (NHL) lockout. During the lockout, cross-sectional data were collected from 256 undergraduate hockey fans. Participants completed online questionnaires measuring passion types, stress appraisals, coping, and how they attended to lockout-related information. Results revealed that obsessive passion was positively associated with stress appraisals, most types of coping, and with avoiding information about the lockout. Harmonious passion was unrelated to stress appraisals, showed few relationships with coping, and was positively related with monitoring lockout-related information. Structural equation modeling supported a model whereby threat appraisal mediated the relationship between obsessive passion and disengagement-oriented coping. This pattern of results suggests that the extent to which the lockout was perceived as a distressing situation, requiring one to regulate thoughts, emotions, and incoming lockout-related information, depended on the extent to which one’s passion for hockey was obsessive rather than harmonious.Acknowledgments: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

18 citations

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Ziva Kunda1
TL;DR: It is proposed that motivation may affect reasoning through reliance on a biased set of cognitive processes--that is, strategies for accessing, constructing, and evaluating beliefs--that are considered most likely to yield the desired conclusion.
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Book ChapterDOI
TL;DR: The authors analyzes the way coping processes restore self-regard rather than the way they address the provoking threat itself, focusing on the way people cope with the implications of threat to their self-reward.
Abstract: Publisher Summary Self-affirmation processes are being activated by information that threatens the perceived adequacy or integrity of the self and as running their course until this perception is restored through explanation, rationalization, and/or action. The purpose of these constant explanations (and rationalizations) is to maintain a phenomenal experience of the self-self-conceptions and images as adaptively and morally adequate—that is, as competent, good, coherent, unitary, stable, capable of free choice, capable of controlling important outcomes, and so on. The research reported in this chapter focuses on the way people cope with the implications of threat to their self-regard rather than on the way they cope with the threat itself. This chapter analyzes the way coping processes restore self-regard rather than the way they address the provoking threat itself.

3,295 citations

Frequently Asked Questions (2)
Q1. What have the authors contributed in "Running head: passionately motivated reasoning 1 passionately motivated reasoning: biased processing of passion-threatening messages" ?

For example, this paper found that harmonious passion associated with a sense of autonomy and control over activity engagement can elicit more defensive responses when the decision itself to pursue an activity is under attack. 

While speculative, these predictions about OP may be worthy of investigation in future research. But there are other potential processes that could explain why HP predicted more bias in this research that do not involve ego-defense. The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.