How does combining activities and freely choosing between them increase or decrease subsequent interest in them? In an extenstion of activity engagement theory (Higgins & Trope, 1990), we propose that an identified activity is associated with an approach or avoidance orientation that serves as a reference point for making evaluative inferences about engagement choices. People make inferences that are informative, i.e., that provide information beyond what is already known. Because people expect to approach a liked activity, choosing not to approach is more informative than choosing to approach. When people forsake a liked activity for another activity, therefore, they infer that the forsaken activity is not so positive. Thus, switching back and forth between two liked activities can decrease subsequent interest in them. Because people expect to avoid a disliked activity, choosing not to avoid is more informative than choosing to avoid. When people choose a disliked activity instead of another activity, therefore, they infer that the chosen activity is not so negative. Thus, switching back and forth between two disliked activities can increase subsequent interest in them. We describe previous research and present new research that supports each of these predictions. We then consider other ways in which combining activities can undermine or enhance interest depending on how engagement choices are represented.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science