Beyond pleasure and pain

Am Psychol. 1997 Dec;52(12):1280-300. doi: 10.1037//0003-066x.52.12.1280.


People approach pleasure and avoid pain. To discover the true nature of approach-avoidance motivation, psychologists need to move beyond this hedonic principle to the principles that underlie the different ways that it operates. One such principle is regulatory focus, which distinguishes self-regulation with a promotion focus (accomplishments and aspirations) from self-regulation with a prevention focus (safety and responsibilities). This principle is used to reconsider the fundamental nature of approach-avoidance, expectancy-value relations, and emotional and evaluative sensitivities. Both types of regulatory focus are applied to phenomena that have been treated in terms of either promotion (e.g., well-being) or prevention (e.g., cognitive dissonance). Then, regulatory focus is distinguished from regulatory anticipation and regulatory reference, 2 other principles underlying the different ways that people approach pleasure and avoid pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation
  • Philosophy*
  • Pleasure-Pain Principle*