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Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence Hardcover – April 18, 2013
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“Insightful, thought-provoking, and highly practical, Focus is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants more deeply to understand how to motivate others.”
—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project
"Focus is an exciting and important new book that brings motivational science to life in a remarkably practical way."
—Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., author of Stumbling on Happiness
"Nothing has changed the research conversation in social psychology in the last decade as much as Tory Higgins's ideas about promotion and prevention. This book shows how promotion and prevention touch every aspect of our daily life from work to parenting."
—Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Switch and Made to Stick
“In anything-but-routine fashion, the authors describe a fundamental difference in the way we seek and achieve success. Their description is so wide-ranging yet integrative, so entertaining yet instructive that I am able to offer an assertion of my own: If you are one of those people who want to be successful, you should read this book.”
—Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D., author of Influence: Science and Practice
“Every once in a while a book comes out that changes the way you see yourself, other people, and the world. This is one of those books. Read it.”
—Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done
“Most people think that motivation gets them energized to act. Focus lifts up the hood on the motivational system and shows how competing motivations to achieve positive outcomes and avoid negative ones influence work, love, and parenting in unexpected ways. The book is filled with practical examples that make it a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why they behave as they do.”
—Art Markman, Ph.D. author of Smart Thinking: Three essential keys to solve --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
E. Tory Higgins, Ph.D., is the Stanley Schachter Professor of Psychology at Columbia University and professor of management at the Columbia Business School, where he also serves as director of the Motivation Science Center.
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Top Customer Reviews
More recently, Halvorson's Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (2011) talked about a wide span of motivational research. As part of that, she gave a thumbnail sketch of promotional and preventative orientations. I thought her sketch there was more complicated, but still promising.
So when Focus came out in 2013, I was excited to learn more about the elaboration of this theory. I also hoped to learn more about its application in business or personal life, backed up by empirical research.
Instead the short form -- the 1999 book chapter -- may hold more value for me in some ways. I come away from the 2013 book, Focus, with more skepticism than I went in with. I am not persuaded that the elaborations in Focus are sufficiently grounded empirically nor user-friendly enough to warrant the wider uses that the authors claim.
Here, below, is how Focus defines promotional and preventative orientations:
"Promotion motivation is, at its core, about satisfying our need for nurturance. It's about filling your life with positives: love and admiration, but also accomplishment, advancement, and growth. Promotion goals are ones that we would ideally like to achieve (as in, `Ideally, I'd like to be more muscular' and `Ideally, I'd like to be in a relationship'). When we do obtain whatever positive thing we've been seeking, we feel the high-energy, cheerfulness-related emotions: happiness, joy, and excitement. Or, as Ray might put it, we feel `totally stoked.'
"Prevention motivation, on the other hand, is about satisfying our need for security. It's about doing what's necessary to maintain a satisfactory life: keeping safe, doing what's right. Prevention goals are ones that we feel we ought to achieve-- ones we think of as duties, obligations, or responsibilities (as in, `I really need to lose some fat' and `I should be in a relationship'). When we do successfully maintain safety and security, we feel the low-energy, quiescence-related emotions: calm, relaxation, and relief. (They may be low energy, but that doesn't mean they don't feel good-- ask any harried working mother trying to fulfill her multiple duties what she'd like most, and the number one answer is usually `to have a chance to relax.')" (p. 5)
Note that this is not quite the same as optimism and pessimism. Nor is it meant to align neatly with economists' notions of carrots and sticks (though I would wish to see the authors delineate these comparisons with ordinary cultural notions of "folk psychology" more closely).
In 14 years gone by since my first encounter with this theory, my overall problem with Focus the book is that the research seems to have remained largely conceptual, not rigorously studied in application. People researching this theory don't seem to have studied how, and how much, people can influence situations or their own appraisals by shifting the cognitive frame. Also, there is too little attention to who and when people take a promotional versus preventative orientation. And the book gives way too little attention to *how* a person is supposed to be able to *assess* oneself and others, reliably, either as a point of personality or a situational factor or both. In place of applied research, the authors rely a lot on intuition and philosophizing without really making clear that's what they're doing.
I think this is an attractive theory that holds out a lot of promise for applied research. If better fleshed out, it could be quite powerful. Meanwhile it may offer loose guidance for day-to-day use intuitively. But in my view, it is not yet ready to be varnished with the gloss of psychological science. As the book stands now, I would call it a lengthy and complicated introduction to a really good-sounding concept that needs more work.
Part II is about motivational fit and this is where the booked bogged down for me. It was interesting at first but it was just too complicated and involved and ultimately I got bored reading it. It's all about how to influence others.
I give Part I 5 stars and Part II 3 stars and thus end up with a 4 star overall rating. I recommend this book and think it will be useful to those who want to understand more about human behavior. Since this book doesn't have any preview options I supply the table of contents below so you can get an idea about the topics covered in the book.
Part I: Promotion and Prevention
Chapter 1: Focused on the win, or Avoiding the Loss?
Chapter 2: Why Optimism Doesn't Work for (Defensive) Pessimists
Chapter 3: Focus on Work
Chapter 4: Focus on Kids
Chapter 5: Focus on Love
Chapter 6: Focus on Making Decisions
Chapter 7: Focus on Our World
Chapter 8: Identifying and Changing Focus
Part II: Motivational Fit
Chapter 9: It's the Fit That Counts
Chapter 10: The Triumph of the Fittest
Chapter 11: Under the Influence
Chapter 12: To Market
Chapter 13: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Motivational Fit
The opening chapters of Focus touch upon many of the topics of motivation (promotion-focused vs. prevention-focused) that were outlined in Succeed; most likely to build a foundation for those who haven't had the opportunity to read Succeed. If the first couple of chapters of Focus are a re-hash, then the remaining chapters most certainly are an extension of those ideas. Halvorson and Higgins present cases of motivational fit (and non-fit) from perspectives of: self-assessment, motivating kids & employees, advertising & purchasing, and message delivery, just to name a few. Once you've properly identified your audience's motivational focus, you'll learn the strategies one needs in order to influence them.