Velocity of discrepancy reduction and affect: Experimentally manipulating direction, distance and time

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Charles Carver - Committee Chair


Two experiments were conducted to study the role of affect in a control model of self-regulation. Carver & Scheier (1990a, 1990b) recently proposed a specific relationship between the rate of progress towards goals (velocity) and affective consequence. Specifically, if a person is moving faster than her desired rate of progress towards her goal, she experiences positive affect. Conversely, if a person is moving slower than her desired velocity, she experiences negative affect. Since velocity consists of two independent parameters (time and distance, V = T/D) that cannot be varied simultaneously, two studies were conducted. In Study 1, time was held constant while distance was systematically varied. Undergraduates completed a goal-directed computer task in which outcomes changed over time and were manipulated unknown to the participant. Feedback was systematically varied on two dimensions: direction (progressively more negative feedback or progressively more positive feedback) and distance (no change from start to end, a 20% change and a 40% change). The dependent variable was affect change (pre-post experiment affect ratings). The direction main effect in Study 1 was significant. The pattern of mood change experience by each group was consistent with the distance hypothesis, however, the predicted interaction effect only approached significant. Study 2 replicated Study 1 with the exception of varying time and holding distance constant. Time was operationalized as the number of blocks of trials (5, 10 or 15 blocks) it takes to travel a certain distance. As in Study 1, the direction main effect in Study 2 was significant. However, the pattern of mood change was not consistent with the time hypothesis and the predicted interaction was not significant. Possible methodological limitations of the studies are discussed. Three possible future studies are outlined.


Psychology, Behavioral; Psychology, Clinical; Psychology, Personality

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