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4 - Discrepancy-Enlarging Loops, and Three Further Issues

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Charles S. Carver
Affiliation:
University of Miami
Michael F. Scheier
Affiliation:
Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania
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Summary

In Chapter 3 we talked about efforts to conform to behavioral reference points. Those processes cover a lot of behavior, but not all behavior. Sometimes people want to attain particular ends, but sometimes they want to escape or avoid particular ends. Sometimes people want to be specific ways, sometimes they want to not be specific ways. The experiences of trying to move toward and trying to move away obviously differ, and they involve different self-regulatory structures.

In this chapter we consider moving-away processes, and a different kind of feedback loop: the discrepancy-enlarging loop. As we said in Chapter 2, some feedback processes act to create a divergence between an input (perception of present condition) and a comparison value. Rather than resembling a gravity field, it looks like antigravity. Rather than a goal, it seems to involve an anti-goal. These loops may be less prominent in behavior than are approach loops. They do, however, play an important role. In this chapter we address that role. Then we turn to some broader questions that transcend the two types of feedback processes.

DISCREPANCY-ENLARGING FEEDBACK LOOPS IN BEHAVIOR

In trying to identify cases of positive feedback in behavior, there are several things to look for. First, positive loops always involve attempts to deviate from a comparison point, efforts to push away from something. Second, it's likely that the distancing from standard is constrained or overridden at some point by the action of a negative loop.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1998

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