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Life Management Strategies as Mediators Between Information Processing Style and Subjective Well-Being:

Life Management Strategies as Mediators Between Information Processing Style and Subjective... This study investigates the mediating role of life management strategies to see how information processing styles indirectly influence subjective well-being. Participants were 440 university students (female = 202, male = 238) ranging in age from 18 to 50 years from all levels and all majors from universities in Quchan, Iran. In a nonexperimental design and by using path analysis, we found that selection, optimization, and compensation fully mediated the relationship between information processing styles and subjective well-being. Our proposed model fitted well to the data and could account for a significant proportion of variance in satisfaction with life, positive affects, and negative affects’ scores (42%, 51%, and 35%, respectively). These results provide empirical evidence that rational information processing style is a defining factor for planning, and its impact on subjective indicators of well-being operates indirectly and through life management strategies. This model, with a more active approach, has implications for both theory and practice in psychotherapy. Keywords information processing style, life management strategies, subjective well-being, cognitive-experiential self-theory From a top-down perspective, cognitive-experiential self- Introduction theory (CEST; Epstein, 2008) suggests that cognitive factors Living a better life has always been a concern for human and mental representations play an important role in SWB. beings. Through focusing either on external objective fac- CEST assumes that many of the most important schemas tors or internal subjective constructs, philosophers and psy- (see, for example, Shahghasemi, 2017) in an individual’s chologists from all walks have tried to explain the sense of implicit theory of reality are derived from relationships with well-being. The bottom-up approach is built on the notion significant others, but it differs in regarding the need for that well-being is influenced by individuals’ age, income, relatedness as only one of four basic needs (Epstein, 1998). social status, and other objective circumstances, whereas According to CEST, the way we view the world is con- the top-down approach puts its emphasis on personality, structed by the way we process the information we receive cognitive processes, and moods as internal factors (Diener (Norris & Epstein, 2011). Information processing style, or as & Lucas, 2000). Theories in this latter approach view sub- some say, cognitive style, has been defined as “the way in jective well-being (SWB) as evaluations of life based on which people process and organize information and arrive at overall satisfaction (the cognitive component) and balance judgments or conclusions based on their observations” (Hunt between positive and negative affects (the affective compo- et al., 1989, quoted in Leonard et al., 1999, p. 407). Various nent) (Kim-Prieto et al., 2005). SWB is also closely related theoretical models suggest that positive feelings and thoughts to one’s relationships and social life (Heintzelman & often co-occur with special information processing style and Diener, 2019), SWB, therefore, could be defined as “a a significant body of research has been created based on this complex set of perceptions and experiences that color the moments, days, and lives in which individuals live” (Ryan, 2015, p. 1). Moods and emotions are together referred to as University of Tehran, Iran affect and represent evaluations of the events that occur in Corresponding Author: one’s life. Satisfaction with life is a judgment made by indi- Ehsan Shahghasemi, University of Tehran, Jalal Al-e Ahmad Highway, viduals based on a long-term assessment of their lives Tehran 1411713118, Iran. (Diener & Lucas, 2000). Email: shahghasemi@ut.ac.ir Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open notion (Norris & Epstein, 2011; Pacini & Epstein, 1999; age (Prenda & Lachman, 2001), gender, education, and Shirzadifard, 2012). However, the mechanisms through income (Bowers et al., 2011; Prenda & Lachman, 2001) have which information processing style is associated with SWB been considered in this regard and psychological compo- have not been adequately documented. That is, most studies nents (e.g., information processing style) are often ignored. in the area have shown reciprocal correlation and often direct In other words, despite consistent arguments that see infor- effects (Epstein, 2008; Norris & Epstein, 2011; Pacini & mation processing style as an underlying factor (Epstein, Epstein, 1999). Thus, from this perspective, the question of 2008; Pacini & Epstein, 1999) scholars have not clearly “how” still requires more research. examined its influence on life management strategies. Our main focus here is to examine the possible paths Accordingly, the question of “who plans?” (Prenda & through which one feels subjectively well. CEST suggests Lachman, 2001) is raised again. that a total evaluation of life or a current emotional experi- Putting the propositions of CEST and SOC together, we ence can be an immediate consequence of how the situation may conclude that the association between information pro- is interpreted. Nevertheless, the state of being well (or ill) cessing styles and SWB can be mediated through SOC. Here, may not be a direct outcome of such perceptions or interpre- information processing components are seen as inherent tations. People plan based on available resources. They act to qualities (Friedman & Scholnick, 1997). CEST may provide reach their desired gains, so their satisfaction with life and insight into cognitive functions underlying SOC. A funda- the emotional balance depends on the strategies they employ. mental assumption in CEST as a dual-process theory is that Another line of inquiry into well-being and its causes human information processing involves two independent, originated from the selection, optimization, and compensa- parallel, and interactive conceptual systems: one that is inten- tion (SOC) model. The model of SOC includes three pro- tional, logical, slow, analytic, verbal, relatively affect free, cesses of action regulation as regards to successful aging and which operates primarily at the conscious level, and the other life management: Selection refers to the setting and prioriti- which is emotional, holistic, automatic, preconscious, associ- zation of objectives, based on personal motives and desires ation-based, nonverbal, that is intimately associated with (elective selection) or due to perceived loss of internal or affect (Epstein, 2008; Pacini & Epstein, 1999). These two contextual resources (loss-based selection). Optimization systems namely Rational and Experiential information pro- includes the obtainment, improvement, and coordinated uti- cessing styles characterize the way people approach, orga- lization of individual means to pursue important selected nize, and interpret their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. objectives. Compensation involves the acquisition and Intentional meta-cognitive representation, reasoning ana- examination of alternative individual means or the use of lytically, and organizing the steps into a logical sequence external or technological aids to substitute lost means (Müller (which are known as rational processes) are crucial to con- & Weigl, 2017). Baltes and Baltes (1990) proposed the SOC textualizing and developing a hierarchical goal system model which applies to different domains of human func- (selection). Acquiring and refining goal-relevant means tioning. In this regard, one set of relevant outcomes is known (optimization) and changing resource allocation (compensa- to represent subjective indicators of well-being. tion) require rational processing and control of heuristics. SOC model assumes that the availability of goal-relevant Researchers have shown that cognitive potentials such as resources does not necessarily result in well-being. That is, problem representation (Friedman & Scholnick, 1997), stra- people differ in using SOC to invest the resources toward tegic thinking, conscious meta-cognitive, and meta-strategic their gains across their lifespan (Freund, 2008). For example, control (Larson & Hansen, 2005) can be associated with Teshale and Lachman (2016) studied a sample of 145 adults SOC usage. aged 22 to 94 to examine whether variation over 7 days in As noted above, the information processing style is an everyday SOC was associated with happiness. They were underlying factor in outcomes like SWB, but its influence is also interested in the role of age differences in this relation- implemented through a sequence. Recent theories include ship, the moderating effects of health, and lagged effects. On more dynamic concepts such as goal setting and planning as days in which middle-aged and older adults and those par- mediating factors. Individuals with the rational processing ticipants with lower health used more SOC, they also said style are more likely to identify an appropriate number of they enjoyed greater happiness. Lagged effects indicated goals, thereby guiding attention and organizing behaviors lower happiness which in turn led to greater subsequent SOC (SOC), which in turn leads to more positive affects and more usage. favorable cognitive evaluations of life. In contrast, people Theoretically, and as is supported by firm empirical evi- who experientially process information may not be able to dence (Gestsdottir & Lerner, 2007; Opitz et al., 2012; Prenda analyze the steps toward the aim. They are likely to have & Lachman, 2001; Wrosch et al., 2003), the SOC model preconscious perceptions that prevent planning and experi- explains how SOC may foster SWB. However, dynamic pro- ence negative affects and maladaptive evaluations of life as a cesses such as goal setting and planning are themselves result. In short, when the rational processing is predominant, influenced by more fundamental antecedents (Prenda & the three SOC components are maximally applied and pro- Lachman, 2001). Only some demographic factors such as vide flexible options for adaptation. Shirzadifard et al. 3 Elective-selection Satisfaction with Life Rational Loss-based selection Positive affects Optimization Experiential - Negative affects Compensation Figure 1. Hypothesized model. Minus (−) on the connectors mean negative relation is assumed. The modeling procedure allows us to test how the concep- Table 1. Demographic Characteristics of Sample. tual model might fit empirical data. We use path analysis to Age consider direct, indirect, and total effects. This way we can show how S, O, and C strategies are influenced by informa- Young Middle-aged Variable adult adult Total tion processing styles and how they predict SWB compo- nents in turn. Based on previous research we reviewed above, Gender we hypothesized that higher scores for rational information Male 229 9 238 processing and lower scores in experiential information pro- Female 197 5 202 cessing would be predictive of life management. We assume Field of study that SWB components are not directly influenced by infor- Humanities 116 12 128 mation processing styles, but, they are affected by the medi- Engineering 210 2 212 ating role of SOC. Figure 1 represents the hypothesized Others 100 0 100 model. Level of education 2 years BA or BS student 100 4 104 4 years BA or BS student 297 1 298 Method MA, MS, or PhD student 29 9 38 Parents’ employment status Participants Father employed 364 13 377 Participants were 440 university students (female = 202, Mother employed 9 0 9 male = 238) ranging in age from 18 to 50 (M= 23.065 and Both 53 1 54 SD= 4.620) at all levels and all majors from universities of Father’s education level Quchan, Iran. Requirements for participation were as fol- Less than elementary school 30 4 34 lows: (a) being currently studying (not graduated), (b) hav- Elementary to high school 303 9 312 ing no history of psychological disorders, and (c) not BA or equivalent 82 1 83 MA or equivalent and beyond 11 0 11 identified as a supper senior or dismissed student. Table 1 Mother’s education level represents participant demographic information. Less than elementary school 50 5 55 A pilot study was conducted before the main research and Elementary to high school 335 9 344 showed no significant differences in variance of SWB among BA or equivalent 37 0 37 three subgroups, namely, behavioral sciences, engineering, and MA or equivalent and beyond 4 0 4 science students. SWB scores’ variance was not different between boys and girls. Despite the homogeneity of variances of subgroups, we used proportionate stratified sampling to reach greater precision, guard against an unrepresentative sample, and Procedure. We announced our study to all students on Uni- to ensure that we obtain sufficient sample points to support a versity’s website and also we posted our ads on university separate analysis of any subgroup (Levy & Lemeshow, 2008). boards; with the permission of instructors and university 4 SAGE Open authorities, we also were allowed to take 2 min of some class Baltes (2002) reported adequate psychometric characteris- times describing our project. Participants were volunteers tics for SOC. As evidence shows, this questionnaire has reli- and we tried to avoid performing any kind of pressure, able scores and allows for valid inferences. Cronbach’s whether formal or social, on students to participate. Among alphas of the SOC measures within the present data set (see those who accepted to participate, 10% changed their mind Table 2) indicate that the four scales have good internal during the procedure, delivered unfilled questionnaires, or, consistency. did not meet our criteria. No gifts, honorarium, and so on, were given to students in return for their participation. Data SWB scales. SWB was assessed through the Satisfaction were collected in classrooms, lobbies, or self-service halls with Life Scale and the Positive and Negative Affect Scales. where students received the form after they were shortly The Satisfaction with Life Scale (cognitive evaluation of a briefed and accepted to participate. We notified that partici- person’s well-being) is an adaptation of Cantril’s (1965; pation was completely optional and their disagreement cited in Andrews & Robinson, 1991) Self-Anchoring Scale, would not affect their grades or other academic results. The which asks respondents to rate their life overall these days students were unknown to the researchers and questionnaires from 0 = worst possible life overall to 10 = the best possible were anonymous. All respondents answered the question- life overall. According to Andrews and Robinson (1991), this naires in the presence of the researchers. measure has been used extensively worldwide, usually pro- Proportional random sampling formula considering the viding satisfactory psychometric properties. In this project, variance ratio of SWB scores (from the pilot study) in each therefore, a pilot study with 40 participants was carried out subgroup, α level = .05, z score = 1.96, and N = 16,560 with the questionnaire of well-being. Participants in the pilot yielded a sample size ≥408. We also did a power analysis phase also participated in the main survey and correlations of using G*Power 3.1.9.2 (Faul et al., 2009) for an F test with scores in the test were reported as the index for test–retest the following settings: α level = .05, 1-β = .95, effect size reliability. Its reliability in this study was evidenced by = .05, and the number of predictors = 5. Critical F was 2.24 strong test–retest correlation (R = .84, n = 40) with a 2-week with actual power greater than .95 and sample size = 402. interval. The affect scale (see Mroczek & Kolarz, 1998) asks Our final sample size (440) provided actual power of .96 for respondents to indicate how much time during the past 30 critical F = 2.35, α level = .04, 1-β = .96. days have been spent with negative feelings (“so sad nothing could cheer you up,” “nervous,” “restless or fidgety,” “hope- less,” “that everything was an effort,” and “worthless”) and Measures positive feelings (“cheerful,” “in good spirits,” “extremely Rational-Experiential Inventory (REI-A20). Rational-Experiential happy,” “calm and peaceful,” “satisfied,” and “full of life”), Inventory (REI-A20; Pacini & Epstein, 1999) was originally on a scale ranging from 1 = none of the time to 5 = all the a 40-item inventory (REI), which included four subscales time. Many scholars worldwide have reported satisfactory (10 items for each): Rational Ability, Rational engagement, psychometric properties for these scales (Shirzadifard, Experiential Ability, Experiential Engagement. Shirzadifard 2012). In the present research internal consistency, as et al. (2018) revised and shortened the original form for an assessed by Cronbach’s alpha, was .78 for the Positive Affect Iranian population. The adapted version is a 20-item inven- and .72 for the Negative Affect. tory with two main scales (10 items for each) of rational (“I have no problem thinking things through carefully”) and Results experiential (“I like to rely on my intuitive impressions”). Respondents score each item on a 5-point Likert-type scale, Before the main analyses, obtained data were analyzed in an which ranged from 1 = completely false to 5 = completely exploratory manner to identify outliers and verify the normality true. Many studies have reported good evidence for the of distributions. Univariate and multivariate outliers, consider- validity and reliability of the REI (Shirzadifard et al., 2018; ing leverage, Cook’s D, and Mahalanobis distance indices, Shirzadifard, 2012). The two scales in this study showed were removed from the data set. In all, four single-variable out- good internal consistencies (rational: α = .74; experiential: liers and two multiple-variable outliers were removed. The α = .72). missing data were not more frequent than 1% for each Item. Given the random pattern of missed cells, we replaced them SOC Questionnaire. The SOC measure (Freund & Baltes, with the series mean. Mean, standard deviation, and Cronbach’s 2002), which includes 48 items (12 items in each subscale of alpha (with exception of single-item satisfaction with life scale) Elective Selection, Loss-Based Selection, Optimization, and were also calculated for each measure (see Table 2). Compensation), is for use with an adult population. Each The zero-order correlations among variables are pre- item consists of two statements, one describing behavior sented in Table 2. According to our results, satisfaction with reflecting “S,” “O,” or “C,” and the other describing a non- life and positive affects correlated positively with rationality SOC-related strategy. Participants decide which statement is but negatively with experientiality. In contrast, negative more similar to how they would behave in case. Freund and affects were negatively associated with rationality. There Shirzadifard et al. 5 Table 2. Means Standard Deviations, Cronbach’s Alpha, and Correlation Coefficients Among Variables. Variable M SD α 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1-Rationality 3.699 .583 .741 2-Experientiality 3.061 .772 .723 −.105* 3-Elective selection 7.138 2.630 .674 .312** −.239** 4-Loss-based selection 8.127 2.730 .635 .250** −.193** .453** 5-Optimization 8.439 3.124 .749 .385** −.127** .653** .497** 6-Compensation 8.695 3.181 .768 .329** −.129** .580** .487** .692** 7-Satisfaction with life 6.736 2.522 − .302** −.163** .494** .548** .538** .506** 8-Positive affects 20.879 6.786 .782 .288** −.174** .546** .608** .592** .569** .611** 9-Negative affects 11.709 4.335 .724 −.265** .055 −.501** −.421** −.511** −.514** −.481** −.545** Note. N = 440. *p ≤ .05. **p ≤ .01. were no significant relations between negative affects and experientiality to positive affects (γ = −.02, p = .49), and experientiality. experientiality to negative affects (γ = −.04, p = .11). Weak As we hypothesized, information processing styles are direct effects from information processing styles, when being associated with the extent to which one uses “S,” “O,” and included together with “S,” “O,” and “C” as predictors of “C” strategies. Rational information procession related SWB, serve itself as an evidence in favor of a fully mediated positively to the elective selection, loss-based SOC. model (Figure 2). Experiential processing was negatively related to elective Rationality and experientiality accounted for variance of 2 2 selection, loss-based SOC. elective selection (R = .14), loss-based selection (R = .09), 2 2 Correlation analyses also confirmed what we predicted optimization (R = .16), and compensation (R = .12). 2 2 about the relation of elective selection to satisfaction with Satisfaction with life (R = .42), positive affects (R = .51), life, positive affects, and negative affects. The loss-based and negative affects (R = .35) were also accounted for by selection was positively related to satisfaction with life, posi- information processing styles and SOC. These R effect sizes tive affects, but it had a reverse relationship to negative show the amount of variance in each dependent variable affects. A similar pattern of relations was seen between opti- determined by the variables included as predictors. It is pos- mization and compensation to SWB components. sible though to predict 42% of one’s level of positive affects We based our model on the assumption that SOC is a key considering his or her way of processing information and the mediator in the relation of information processing styles and level he or she uses SOC strategies. Table 3 includes squared SWB. A path analysis was conducted to test the hypothesized multiple correlations, 95% bias-corrected confidence inter- model using Amos™ 18 (Arbuckle, 2009). val, and α lever for each. Solutions were generated using maximum likelihood esti- The decomposition of the direct and indirect effects of the mation and bootstrapping based on 500 samples. The pro- variables is listed in Table 4. posed model provided a good fit for the obtained results, with Since any predictor had either direct or indirect effect on 2 2 a χ = 9.14, p = .17, df = 6, χ /df = 1.53, adjusted goodness a given criterion variable, total effect which is simply sum of for fit index (AGFI) = .97, comparative fit index (CFI) = .99, direct and indirect effects is nonsense here. According to our normal fit index (NFI) = .99, relative fit index (RFI) = .97, results, rationality could positively predict levels of elective and root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = selection (γ = .291, p = .004), loss-based selection (γ = .03 (Arbuckle, 2009). Model included covariance of the .232, p = .003), optimization (γ = .376, p = .002), and com- residual variance between SOC. Inspection of the modifica- pensation (γ = .319, p = .002). In contrast, experientiality tion indices revealed that no modifications to the model were predicted elective selection (γ = −.209, p = .004), loss-based necessary. We also studied an alternative model with direct selection (γ = −.169, p = .003), optimization (γ = −.087, effects of information processing styles and SOC components p = .035), and compensation (γ = −.096, p = .028) reversely. on SWB. Model fit indices including χ = 105.562, p = .000, It is notable that regression weights of experientiality on df = 8, χ /df = 13.19, AGFI = .74, CFI = .94, NFI = .94, optimization and correlation were significant at p ≤ .05. RFI = .71, and RMSEA = .17 indicated a poor fitness. Satisfaction with life was positively predicted by elective Moreover, direct effects in the alternative model were not sta- selection (β = .147, p = .010), loss-based selection (β = .323, tistically significant: rationality to satisfaction with life (γ = p = .003), optimization (β = .191, p = .006), and compensa- .07, p = .08), rationality to positive affects (γ = .02, p = .65), tion (β = .131, p = .035). Positive affects were also positively rationality to negative affects (γ = −.04, p = .26), experien- influenced by elective selection (β = .161, p = .004), loss- tiality to satisfaction with life (γ = −.02, p = .56), based selection (β = .358, p = .005), optimization (β = .192, 6 SAGE Open Elective-selection Satisfaction with .291** .147** Life .161** .323** .191** Rational Loss-based .131* .232** selection .358** Positive affects -.209** .376** .192** Optimization -.169** -.210** -.087* Experiential -.145** -.096* .319** .117 .169** -.152* Negative affects -.217** Compensation Figure 2. The model of relationships between information processing styles, SOC, and SWB. N = 440. Standardized regression coefficients are tagged to the connectors. The coefficients on rectangles represent squared multiple correlations. For competing models, direct paths were shown to be nonsignificant, and hence we concluded that all paths were indirect involving significant mediators. Table 3. Squared Multiple Correlations with 95% Confidence Significant indirect effects of rationality and experientiality Interval (CI) for Endogenous Variables. on satisfaction with life, positive affects, and negative affects through SOC indicated that SOC plays an important mediat- Lower Upper ing role. Parameter R bound bound p value Elective selection .141 .080 .210 .006 Discussion Loss-based selection .091 .043 .144 .007 Optimization .156 .102 .219 .004 In this study, we built our model based on the notion that Compensation .117 .067 .182 .004 SOC strategies would mediate the effects of information pro- Satisfaction with life .419 .333 .485 .010 cessing style to SWB. The results of the path analysis con- Positive affects .515 .436 .582 .006 firming a fully mediated model supported the hypothesis. Negative affects .355 .265 .449 .006 This is the unique contribution of our study that provides, for the first time, empirical evidence for the theoretical explana- tion of how information processing styles may make a differ- p = .003), and compensation (β = .169, p = .005). SOC com- ence in SWB through strategies one uses to gain his or her ponents could also predict negative affects reversely: elective desired objectives. selection (β = −.210, p = .004), loss-based selection (β = Correlation coefficients coupled with the regression −.145, p = .003), optimization (β = −.152, p = .028), and weights in the path analysis supported the positive effect of compensation (β = −.217, p = .005). β coefficients of com- rational style and negative effect of experiential style on all pensation to positive affects and optimization to negative four strategies of SOC. Rational processing style had stron- affects were significant at p ≤ .05. ger (β = .232 to .376) effect on all SOC components than did We were especially interested in indirect effects of infor- experiential processing style (β = −.096 to −.209). Yet both mation processing styles on SWB components. Rationality styles were significant predictors of SOC. had indirect positive affects on both satisfaction with life (γ.β We could not find empirical investigations on the rela- = .231, p = .005) and positive affects (γ.β = .256, p = .002). tionship between information processing and SOC; yet, It also indirectly influenced levels of negative affects (γ.β = some researchers have studied other cognitive factors. −.221, p = .001). In contrast, experientiality was a negative Freund and Baltes (2002) showed hierarchic thinking style indirect predictor for satisfaction with life (γ.β = −.115, p = (distinguished by Sternberg) is positively correlated to SOC .003) and positive affects (γ.β = −.127, p = .003). As we had components, whereas the monarchic style was associated expected, experientiality could positively predict negative only with ES. Schmeichel and Demaree (2010) indicated that affects through SOC components (γ.β = .231, p = .005). higher working memory capacity leads to more engagement Shirzadifard et al. 7 Table 4. Decomposition of Standardized Direct and Indirect Effects with 95% CI. Paths Direct L U p value Indirect L U p value To elective selection from Rationality .291 .208 .371 .004 − Experientiality −.209 −.301 −.107 .004 − To loss-based selection from Rationality .232 .151 .333 .003 − Experientiality −.169 −.272 −.082 .003 − To optimization from Rationality .376 .304 .457 .002 − Experientiality −.087 −.168 −.013 .035 − To compensation from: Rationality .319 .238 .408 .002 − Experientiality −.096 −.199 −.014 .028 − To satisfaction with life from Rationality − .231 .167 .290 .005 Experientiality − −.115 −.185 −.050 .003 Elective selection .147 .053 .253 .010 − Loss-based selection .323 .238 .423 .003 − Optimization .191 .071 .300 .006 − Compensation .131 .013 .261 .035 − To positive affects from Rationality − .256 .200 .336 .002 Experientiality − −.127 −.202 −.052 .003 Elective selection .161 .065 .257 .004 − Loss-based selection .358 .256 .448 .005 − Optimization .192 .093 .314 .003 − Compensation .169 .070 .279 .005 − To negative affects from Rationality − −.221 −.304 −.170 .001 Experientiality − .102 .049 .165 .003 Elective selection −.210 −.309 −.103 .004 − Loss-based selection −.145 −.262 −.057 .003 − Optimization −.152 −.277 −.015 .028 − Compensation −.217 −.333 −.096 .005 − Note. L = Lower bound; U = Upper bound; CI = confidence interval. in self-enhancement after negative feedback. Both working that the negative relation of the experiential processing style memory and simultaneous processing involved in reasoning to SOC, and therefore SWB, does make sense. are related to life management (Friedman & Scholnick, SOC is a part of intentional self-regulation (Gestsdottir 1997). Our findings regarding information processing style et al., 2009) which involves the conscious control of goal- were totally in this vein but against Prenda and Lachman directed thought and action. It requires self-evaluations, cap- (2001) whose study showed the lack of predictive ability of turing directions for future actions, a sense of personal future, both memory span and reasoning for SOC. and internalization of standards (Jelicic et al., 2007). “S,” Some researchers support the idea that the experiential “O,” and “C” strategies are conscious steps toward a goal processing style would positively correlate to positive out- based on rational representations, perceptions, and reactions comes. Norris and Epstein (2011), for instance, indicated the to the context. The process-oriented rational information pro- relation of an experiential thinking style to the objective cessing style allows selecting and sequencing some actions. It favorable attributes of creativity, aesthetic judgment, humor, is only the reason-oriented nature of rationality that makes and intuition. Here, in contrast, we found negative effects of one able to contemplate a problem and realize the discrep- experientiality on SOC components (directly) and SWB ancy between a goal and a present state to refine goal-relevant indicators (indirectly). It may seem confusing at first but a means or the goal set itself. We think it is quite explicit that a closer look at the nature of positive outcomes in this study rational information processing style helps using SOC strate- and those mentioned by Norris and Epstein (2011) clarifies gies but how about experiential processing style? 8 SAGE Open Experiential information processing is self-evident and how they actively and intentionally regulate their lives. often stereotypical. It acts in a preconscious, holistic, auto- Intentional self-regulation (Gestsdottir et al., 2009) is the matic, intuitive, and crudely integrated manner (Epstein, 2008; ability to select goals, optimize resources to achieve the Klaczynski et al., 1998). The outcome-oriented nature of goals, and compensate against weaknesses. These skills experientiality prevents planning conscious steps toward an relate to contribution to family, community, and self (Freund end. It has a very limited ability to think abstractly to structure & Baltes, 2002). Given the vast array of unexpected contex- a hierarchic goal set. It is against proper redirecting or changes tual changes, a person must effectively use SOC to maximize following disproving evidence as it needs repetitive or intense the adaptive integration of changes (Wiese et al., 2002). This experience to be changed. The experiential processing style is is crucial for a sense of satisfaction and a positive emotion pleasure–pain oriented and toward immediate action to gain toward the existing situation (Gestsdottir et al., 2010). These what feels good (Norris & Epstein, 2011) at the moment and regulations reduce failures by focusing on reachable goals therefore may not suggest reactions suitable for a favorable that converge with environmental demands, individual but delayed goal. Accordingly, we see the negative relation of capacities, and personal desires. As some social or personal experientiality to SOC components in line with both CEST factors can make a given goal unattainable, disengagement and life management theory. Conversely, although creativity is to the goal and reengage in alternative goals (LBS) will be in not considered as a component of SWB, positive outcomes favor of a sense of SWB (Wrosch et al., 2003). such as favorable attributes of creativity, humor, and intuition To answer the question “How” information processing (Norris & Epstein, 2011) do not require rational processing style may contribute to well-being, we should consider a and do not share the characteristics of SOC strategies. more active individual–environment interaction. Each per- Back to the question “who plans?” our results, built on the son presented with a combination of expected and unex- premises of CEST, answers “the one who is more rational pected events has his interpretation, which may be rational. and less experiential.” Some previous studies have suggested The preferred processing style determines the interplay of that age (Prenda & Lachman, 2001), gender, education, and acting in situations and managing resources to gain the most income (Bowers et al., 2011; Prenda & Lachman, 2001) pleasure and the least failure. So, as we showed (through a determine planning. We argue that the preferred information fully mediated model) information processing style does not processing style would also make a difference. Coexisting directly influence satisfaction with life and happiness, it rational and experiential systems serve as adaptive systems, rather indicates how people manage their sources toward a each with its limitations (Epstein, 2008). Rational informa- sense of satisfaction and emotional balance by making ratio- tion processing is crucial for the application of SOC in ill- nal choices and taking proper actions. structured real-world planning. So those with a prominent We claim that our results may provide empirical evidence experiential system most probably produce nonstrategic for the fruitfulness of the action-theoretical approach of the reactions to situations (Friedman & Scholnick, 1997). They SOC model to expand the explanations of CEST for indi- may not regulate their lives intentionally and use less effec- vidual differences. Through combining CEST and SOC the- tive management strategies. They would fail in anticipation ories, underlying paths to well-being are more clearly of contingencies, monitoring, and using flexible strategies understood. Recent conceptualizations include more dynamic (Larson & Hansen, 2005). processes to understand the causes of human behavior. SOC We also showed that all SOC components are positive strategies that optimally contribute to adaptive development predictors of satisfaction with life and positive affects but can be learned by individuals. Dynamic models can provide negative predictors of negative affects. These findings are in a set of more active regulations to improve strengths and good cohesion with past studies. Studies have repeatedly compensate for shortages. This understanding is equally confirmed the positive association between SOC and mea- important in terms of practical implications in psychotherapy sures of mental well-being, social competence (Buckner and effective interventions. The information processing style et al., 2009), life satisfaction (Freund & Baltes, 2002; Prenda is also flexible when one is aware of its nature and knows & Lachman, 2001), sense of purpose in life (Jelicic et al., how to intentionally handle it (Klaczynski et al., 1998). Thus, 2007), positive emotions (Freund & Baltes, 2002), subjective learning more rational cognitive processing facilitates more indicators of successful development (Bowers et al., 2011; usage of the three SOC components, thereby providing a vast Gestsdottir & Lerner, 2007), and personal growth (Freund & variety of options for well-being. Baltes, 2002). It is also evidenced that SOC strategies corre- late negatively with substance use, delinquency (Gestsdottir Limitations & Lerner, 2007), problematic development, depressive symptoms (Gestsdottir et al., 2010), sexual risk-taking One limitation of the present study is the cross-sectional (Jelicic et al., 2007), depression, drinking, smoking, and bul- nature of the data. The university student sample recruited in lying (Gestsdottir et al., 2009). this research provides limitations for generalization of the SOC model from an action-theoretical framework (Wiese results to the wider society. Cultural variation may be a et al., 2002) emphasizes the agency of human beings to show source of methodological problems as the SOC measure was Shirzadifard et al. 9 originally developed in Germany and it may not apply in the Bowers, E. P., Gestsdottir, S., Geldhof, G. J., Nikitin, J., von Eye, A., & Lerner, R. M. (2011). Developmental trajectories of same way among Iranian participants. Self-report measures intentional self regulation in adolescence: The role of parenting may provide socially desirable answering instead of repre- and implications for positive and problematic outcomes among senting the real response. The problem might become more diverse youth. Journal of Adolescence, 34(6), 1193–1206. grave with the experiential processing scale in which word- Buckner, J. C., Mezzacappa, E., & Beardslee, W. R. (2009). Self- ing of the items in the Persian version may not completely regulation and its relations to adaptive functioning in low correspond to those of the English one. Future research income youths. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 79(1), should look deeper into the relation of information process- 19–30. ing style and SOC through longitudinal or controlled experi- Dickinson, T. L., & Tice, T. E. (1977). The discriminant validity mental designs. Such studies would be critical to identify and of scales developed by retranslation. Personnel Psychology, clarify the mechanisms that may be involved in the relation- 30(2), 217–228. ship between intentional self-regulation and SWB. Diener, E., & Lucas, R. E. (2000). Explaining differences in soci- etal levels of happiness: Relative standards, need fulfillment, Moreover, based on previous research, we were con- culture, and evaluation theory. Journal of Happiness Studies, vinced that Persian is a highly complicated and mystic lan- 1(1), 41–78. guage which has structural difference with English, and Epstein, S. (1998). Cognitive-experiential self-theory. In D. F. hence, the word-by-word translation would not be suitable if Barone, M. Hersen, & V. B. Van Hasselt (Eds.), Advanced we wanted to convey the meaning of the sentences. Therefore, personality. The plenum series in social/clinical psychology while trying to stay faithful to the original inventory, we (pp 211–238). Springer. broke and reworded some sentences to make them “Persian,” Epstein, S. (2008). Intuition from the perspective of cognitive- and hence, more understandable to our participants (to see experiential self-theory. In H. Plessner, C. Betsch, & T. Betsch more on linguistic adaptations, see Dickinson & Tice, 1977). (Eds.), Intuition in judgment and decision making (pp. 23–37). Another limitation of our study is the SOC questionnaire Erlbaum. shows a relatively low reliability (fewer than 0.70) for some Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Buchner, A., & Lang, A. (2009). Statistical power analyses using G*Power 3.1: Tests for correlation and subscales. Therefore, when talking about the relationships regression analyses. Behavior Research Methods, 41(4), 1149– concerning subscales, we have to be careful of possible mea- surement errors. Freund, A. M. (2008). Successful aging as management of These were some of the limitations of the current study. resources: The role of selection, optimization, and compensa- But in sum, the present structural model for explaining well- tion. Research in Human Development, 5(2), 94–106. being is more efficient than models that show linear relation- Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2002). Life-management strategies ships. Moreover, this model can provide more flexible and of selection, optimization and compensation: Measurement by intervening explanations. self-report and construct validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(4), 642–662. Declaration of Conflicting Interests Friedman, S. L., & Scholnick, E. K. (1997). The developmental psychology of planning: Why, how, and when do we plan? The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect Erlbaum. to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Gestsdottir, S., Bowers, E., Von Eye, A., Napolitano, C. M., & Lerner, R. M. (2010). Intentional self regulation in middle ado- Funding lescence: The emerging role of loss-based selection in positive The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author- youth development. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39(7), ship, and/or publication of this article. 764–782. Gestsdottir, S., & Lerner, R. M. (2007). Intentional self-regula- ORCID iD tion and positive youth development in early adolescence: Findings from the 4-h study of positive youth development. Ehsan Shahghasemi https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8716-5806 Developmental Psycholory, 43(2), 508–521. Gestsdottir, S., Lewin-Bizan, S., von Eye, A., Lerner, J. V., & References Lerner, R. M. (2009). The structure and function of selec- Andrews, F. M., & Robinson, J. P. (1991). 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Life Management Strategies as Mediators Between Information Processing Style and Subjective Well-Being:

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Abstract

This study investigates the mediating role of life management strategies to see how information processing styles indirectly influence subjective well-being. Participants were 440 university students (female = 202, male = 238) ranging in age from 18 to 50 years from all levels and all majors from universities in Quchan, Iran. In a nonexperimental design and by using path analysis, we found that selection, optimization, and compensation fully mediated the relationship between information processing styles and subjective well-being. Our proposed model fitted well to the data and could account for a significant proportion of variance in satisfaction with life, positive affects, and negative affects’ scores (42%, 51%, and 35%, respectively). These results provide empirical evidence that rational information processing style is a defining factor for planning, and its impact on subjective indicators of well-being operates indirectly and through life management strategies. This model, with a more active approach, has implications for both theory and practice in psychotherapy. Keywords information processing style, life management strategies, subjective well-being, cognitive-experiential self-theory From a top-down perspective, cognitive-experiential self- Introduction theory (CEST; Epstein, 2008) suggests that cognitive factors Living a better life has always been a concern for human and mental representations play an important role in SWB. beings. Through focusing either on external objective fac- CEST assumes that many of the most important schemas tors or internal subjective constructs, philosophers and psy- (see, for example, Shahghasemi, 2017) in an individual’s chologists from all walks have tried to explain the sense of implicit theory of reality are derived from relationships with well-being. The bottom-up approach is built on the notion significant others, but it differs in regarding the need for that well-being is influenced by individuals’ age, income, relatedness as only one of four basic needs (Epstein, 1998). social status, and other objective circumstances, whereas According to CEST, the way we view the world is con- the top-down approach puts its emphasis on personality, structed by the way we process the information we receive cognitive processes, and moods as internal factors (Diener (Norris & Epstein, 2011). Information processing style, or as & Lucas, 2000). Theories in this latter approach view sub- some say, cognitive style, has been defined as “the way in jective well-being (SWB) as evaluations of life based on which people process and organize information and arrive at overall satisfaction (the cognitive component) and balance judgments or conclusions based on their observations” (Hunt between positive and negative affects (the affective compo- et al., 1989, quoted in Leonard et al., 1999, p. 407). Various nent) (Kim-Prieto et al., 2005). SWB is also closely related theoretical models suggest that positive feelings and thoughts to one’s relationships and social life (Heintzelman & often co-occur with special information processing style and Diener, 2019), SWB, therefore, could be defined as “a a significant body of research has been created based on this complex set of perceptions and experiences that color the moments, days, and lives in which individuals live” (Ryan, 2015, p. 1). Moods and emotions are together referred to as University of Tehran, Iran affect and represent evaluations of the events that occur in Corresponding Author: one’s life. Satisfaction with life is a judgment made by indi- Ehsan Shahghasemi, University of Tehran, Jalal Al-e Ahmad Highway, viduals based on a long-term assessment of their lives Tehran 1411713118, Iran. (Diener & Lucas, 2000). Email: shahghasemi@ut.ac.ir Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open notion (Norris & Epstein, 2011; Pacini & Epstein, 1999; age (Prenda & Lachman, 2001), gender, education, and Shirzadifard, 2012). However, the mechanisms through income (Bowers et al., 2011; Prenda & Lachman, 2001) have which information processing style is associated with SWB been considered in this regard and psychological compo- have not been adequately documented. That is, most studies nents (e.g., information processing style) are often ignored. in the area have shown reciprocal correlation and often direct In other words, despite consistent arguments that see infor- effects (Epstein, 2008; Norris & Epstein, 2011; Pacini & mation processing style as an underlying factor (Epstein, Epstein, 1999). Thus, from this perspective, the question of 2008; Pacini & Epstein, 1999) scholars have not clearly “how” still requires more research. examined its influence on life management strategies. Our main focus here is to examine the possible paths Accordingly, the question of “who plans?” (Prenda & through which one feels subjectively well. CEST suggests Lachman, 2001) is raised again. that a total evaluation of life or a current emotional experi- Putting the propositions of CEST and SOC together, we ence can be an immediate consequence of how the situation may conclude that the association between information pro- is interpreted. Nevertheless, the state of being well (or ill) cessing styles and SWB can be mediated through SOC. Here, may not be a direct outcome of such perceptions or interpre- information processing components are seen as inherent tations. People plan based on available resources. They act to qualities (Friedman & Scholnick, 1997). CEST may provide reach their desired gains, so their satisfaction with life and insight into cognitive functions underlying SOC. A funda- the emotional balance depends on the strategies they employ. mental assumption in CEST as a dual-process theory is that Another line of inquiry into well-being and its causes human information processing involves two independent, originated from the selection, optimization, and compensa- parallel, and interactive conceptual systems: one that is inten- tion (SOC) model. The model of SOC includes three pro- tional, logical, slow, analytic, verbal, relatively affect free, cesses of action regulation as regards to successful aging and which operates primarily at the conscious level, and the other life management: Selection refers to the setting and prioriti- which is emotional, holistic, automatic, preconscious, associ- zation of objectives, based on personal motives and desires ation-based, nonverbal, that is intimately associated with (elective selection) or due to perceived loss of internal or affect (Epstein, 2008; Pacini & Epstein, 1999). These two contextual resources (loss-based selection). Optimization systems namely Rational and Experiential information pro- includes the obtainment, improvement, and coordinated uti- cessing styles characterize the way people approach, orga- lization of individual means to pursue important selected nize, and interpret their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. objectives. Compensation involves the acquisition and Intentional meta-cognitive representation, reasoning ana- examination of alternative individual means or the use of lytically, and organizing the steps into a logical sequence external or technological aids to substitute lost means (Müller (which are known as rational processes) are crucial to con- & Weigl, 2017). Baltes and Baltes (1990) proposed the SOC textualizing and developing a hierarchical goal system model which applies to different domains of human func- (selection). Acquiring and refining goal-relevant means tioning. In this regard, one set of relevant outcomes is known (optimization) and changing resource allocation (compensa- to represent subjective indicators of well-being. tion) require rational processing and control of heuristics. SOC model assumes that the availability of goal-relevant Researchers have shown that cognitive potentials such as resources does not necessarily result in well-being. That is, problem representation (Friedman & Scholnick, 1997), stra- people differ in using SOC to invest the resources toward tegic thinking, conscious meta-cognitive, and meta-strategic their gains across their lifespan (Freund, 2008). For example, control (Larson & Hansen, 2005) can be associated with Teshale and Lachman (2016) studied a sample of 145 adults SOC usage. aged 22 to 94 to examine whether variation over 7 days in As noted above, the information processing style is an everyday SOC was associated with happiness. They were underlying factor in outcomes like SWB, but its influence is also interested in the role of age differences in this relation- implemented through a sequence. Recent theories include ship, the moderating effects of health, and lagged effects. On more dynamic concepts such as goal setting and planning as days in which middle-aged and older adults and those par- mediating factors. Individuals with the rational processing ticipants with lower health used more SOC, they also said style are more likely to identify an appropriate number of they enjoyed greater happiness. Lagged effects indicated goals, thereby guiding attention and organizing behaviors lower happiness which in turn led to greater subsequent SOC (SOC), which in turn leads to more positive affects and more usage. favorable cognitive evaluations of life. In contrast, people Theoretically, and as is supported by firm empirical evi- who experientially process information may not be able to dence (Gestsdottir & Lerner, 2007; Opitz et al., 2012; Prenda analyze the steps toward the aim. They are likely to have & Lachman, 2001; Wrosch et al., 2003), the SOC model preconscious perceptions that prevent planning and experi- explains how SOC may foster SWB. However, dynamic pro- ence negative affects and maladaptive evaluations of life as a cesses such as goal setting and planning are themselves result. In short, when the rational processing is predominant, influenced by more fundamental antecedents (Prenda & the three SOC components are maximally applied and pro- Lachman, 2001). Only some demographic factors such as vide flexible options for adaptation. Shirzadifard et al. 3 Elective-selection Satisfaction with Life Rational Loss-based selection Positive affects Optimization Experiential - Negative affects Compensation Figure 1. Hypothesized model. Minus (−) on the connectors mean negative relation is assumed. The modeling procedure allows us to test how the concep- Table 1. Demographic Characteristics of Sample. tual model might fit empirical data. We use path analysis to Age consider direct, indirect, and total effects. This way we can show how S, O, and C strategies are influenced by informa- Young Middle-aged Variable adult adult Total tion processing styles and how they predict SWB compo- nents in turn. Based on previous research we reviewed above, Gender we hypothesized that higher scores for rational information Male 229 9 238 processing and lower scores in experiential information pro- Female 197 5 202 cessing would be predictive of life management. We assume Field of study that SWB components are not directly influenced by infor- Humanities 116 12 128 mation processing styles, but, they are affected by the medi- Engineering 210 2 212 ating role of SOC. Figure 1 represents the hypothesized Others 100 0 100 model. Level of education 2 years BA or BS student 100 4 104 4 years BA or BS student 297 1 298 Method MA, MS, or PhD student 29 9 38 Parents’ employment status Participants Father employed 364 13 377 Participants were 440 university students (female = 202, Mother employed 9 0 9 male = 238) ranging in age from 18 to 50 (M= 23.065 and Both 53 1 54 SD= 4.620) at all levels and all majors from universities of Father’s education level Quchan, Iran. Requirements for participation were as fol- Less than elementary school 30 4 34 lows: (a) being currently studying (not graduated), (b) hav- Elementary to high school 303 9 312 ing no history of psychological disorders, and (c) not BA or equivalent 82 1 83 MA or equivalent and beyond 11 0 11 identified as a supper senior or dismissed student. Table 1 Mother’s education level represents participant demographic information. Less than elementary school 50 5 55 A pilot study was conducted before the main research and Elementary to high school 335 9 344 showed no significant differences in variance of SWB among BA or equivalent 37 0 37 three subgroups, namely, behavioral sciences, engineering, and MA or equivalent and beyond 4 0 4 science students. SWB scores’ variance was not different between boys and girls. Despite the homogeneity of variances of subgroups, we used proportionate stratified sampling to reach greater precision, guard against an unrepresentative sample, and Procedure. We announced our study to all students on Uni- to ensure that we obtain sufficient sample points to support a versity’s website and also we posted our ads on university separate analysis of any subgroup (Levy & Lemeshow, 2008). boards; with the permission of instructors and university 4 SAGE Open authorities, we also were allowed to take 2 min of some class Baltes (2002) reported adequate psychometric characteris- times describing our project. Participants were volunteers tics for SOC. As evidence shows, this questionnaire has reli- and we tried to avoid performing any kind of pressure, able scores and allows for valid inferences. Cronbach’s whether formal or social, on students to participate. Among alphas of the SOC measures within the present data set (see those who accepted to participate, 10% changed their mind Table 2) indicate that the four scales have good internal during the procedure, delivered unfilled questionnaires, or, consistency. did not meet our criteria. No gifts, honorarium, and so on, were given to students in return for their participation. Data SWB scales. SWB was assessed through the Satisfaction were collected in classrooms, lobbies, or self-service halls with Life Scale and the Positive and Negative Affect Scales. where students received the form after they were shortly The Satisfaction with Life Scale (cognitive evaluation of a briefed and accepted to participate. We notified that partici- person’s well-being) is an adaptation of Cantril’s (1965; pation was completely optional and their disagreement cited in Andrews & Robinson, 1991) Self-Anchoring Scale, would not affect their grades or other academic results. The which asks respondents to rate their life overall these days students were unknown to the researchers and questionnaires from 0 = worst possible life overall to 10 = the best possible were anonymous. All respondents answered the question- life overall. According to Andrews and Robinson (1991), this naires in the presence of the researchers. measure has been used extensively worldwide, usually pro- Proportional random sampling formula considering the viding satisfactory psychometric properties. In this project, variance ratio of SWB scores (from the pilot study) in each therefore, a pilot study with 40 participants was carried out subgroup, α level = .05, z score = 1.96, and N = 16,560 with the questionnaire of well-being. Participants in the pilot yielded a sample size ≥408. We also did a power analysis phase also participated in the main survey and correlations of using G*Power 3.1.9.2 (Faul et al., 2009) for an F test with scores in the test were reported as the index for test–retest the following settings: α level = .05, 1-β = .95, effect size reliability. Its reliability in this study was evidenced by = .05, and the number of predictors = 5. Critical F was 2.24 strong test–retest correlation (R = .84, n = 40) with a 2-week with actual power greater than .95 and sample size = 402. interval. The affect scale (see Mroczek & Kolarz, 1998) asks Our final sample size (440) provided actual power of .96 for respondents to indicate how much time during the past 30 critical F = 2.35, α level = .04, 1-β = .96. days have been spent with negative feelings (“so sad nothing could cheer you up,” “nervous,” “restless or fidgety,” “hope- less,” “that everything was an effort,” and “worthless”) and Measures positive feelings (“cheerful,” “in good spirits,” “extremely Rational-Experiential Inventory (REI-A20). Rational-Experiential happy,” “calm and peaceful,” “satisfied,” and “full of life”), Inventory (REI-A20; Pacini & Epstein, 1999) was originally on a scale ranging from 1 = none of the time to 5 = all the a 40-item inventory (REI), which included four subscales time. Many scholars worldwide have reported satisfactory (10 items for each): Rational Ability, Rational engagement, psychometric properties for these scales (Shirzadifard, Experiential Ability, Experiential Engagement. Shirzadifard 2012). In the present research internal consistency, as et al. (2018) revised and shortened the original form for an assessed by Cronbach’s alpha, was .78 for the Positive Affect Iranian population. The adapted version is a 20-item inven- and .72 for the Negative Affect. tory with two main scales (10 items for each) of rational (“I have no problem thinking things through carefully”) and Results experiential (“I like to rely on my intuitive impressions”). Respondents score each item on a 5-point Likert-type scale, Before the main analyses, obtained data were analyzed in an which ranged from 1 = completely false to 5 = completely exploratory manner to identify outliers and verify the normality true. Many studies have reported good evidence for the of distributions. Univariate and multivariate outliers, consider- validity and reliability of the REI (Shirzadifard et al., 2018; ing leverage, Cook’s D, and Mahalanobis distance indices, Shirzadifard, 2012). The two scales in this study showed were removed from the data set. In all, four single-variable out- good internal consistencies (rational: α = .74; experiential: liers and two multiple-variable outliers were removed. The α = .72). missing data were not more frequent than 1% for each Item. Given the random pattern of missed cells, we replaced them SOC Questionnaire. The SOC measure (Freund & Baltes, with the series mean. Mean, standard deviation, and Cronbach’s 2002), which includes 48 items (12 items in each subscale of alpha (with exception of single-item satisfaction with life scale) Elective Selection, Loss-Based Selection, Optimization, and were also calculated for each measure (see Table 2). Compensation), is for use with an adult population. Each The zero-order correlations among variables are pre- item consists of two statements, one describing behavior sented in Table 2. According to our results, satisfaction with reflecting “S,” “O,” or “C,” and the other describing a non- life and positive affects correlated positively with rationality SOC-related strategy. Participants decide which statement is but negatively with experientiality. In contrast, negative more similar to how they would behave in case. Freund and affects were negatively associated with rationality. There Shirzadifard et al. 5 Table 2. Means Standard Deviations, Cronbach’s Alpha, and Correlation Coefficients Among Variables. Variable M SD α 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1-Rationality 3.699 .583 .741 2-Experientiality 3.061 .772 .723 −.105* 3-Elective selection 7.138 2.630 .674 .312** −.239** 4-Loss-based selection 8.127 2.730 .635 .250** −.193** .453** 5-Optimization 8.439 3.124 .749 .385** −.127** .653** .497** 6-Compensation 8.695 3.181 .768 .329** −.129** .580** .487** .692** 7-Satisfaction with life 6.736 2.522 − .302** −.163** .494** .548** .538** .506** 8-Positive affects 20.879 6.786 .782 .288** −.174** .546** .608** .592** .569** .611** 9-Negative affects 11.709 4.335 .724 −.265** .055 −.501** −.421** −.511** −.514** −.481** −.545** Note. N = 440. *p ≤ .05. **p ≤ .01. were no significant relations between negative affects and experientiality to positive affects (γ = −.02, p = .49), and experientiality. experientiality to negative affects (γ = −.04, p = .11). Weak As we hypothesized, information processing styles are direct effects from information processing styles, when being associated with the extent to which one uses “S,” “O,” and included together with “S,” “O,” and “C” as predictors of “C” strategies. Rational information procession related SWB, serve itself as an evidence in favor of a fully mediated positively to the elective selection, loss-based SOC. model (Figure 2). Experiential processing was negatively related to elective Rationality and experientiality accounted for variance of 2 2 selection, loss-based SOC. elective selection (R = .14), loss-based selection (R = .09), 2 2 Correlation analyses also confirmed what we predicted optimization (R = .16), and compensation (R = .12). 2 2 about the relation of elective selection to satisfaction with Satisfaction with life (R = .42), positive affects (R = .51), life, positive affects, and negative affects. The loss-based and negative affects (R = .35) were also accounted for by selection was positively related to satisfaction with life, posi- information processing styles and SOC. These R effect sizes tive affects, but it had a reverse relationship to negative show the amount of variance in each dependent variable affects. A similar pattern of relations was seen between opti- determined by the variables included as predictors. It is pos- mization and compensation to SWB components. sible though to predict 42% of one’s level of positive affects We based our model on the assumption that SOC is a key considering his or her way of processing information and the mediator in the relation of information processing styles and level he or she uses SOC strategies. Table 3 includes squared SWB. A path analysis was conducted to test the hypothesized multiple correlations, 95% bias-corrected confidence inter- model using Amos™ 18 (Arbuckle, 2009). val, and α lever for each. Solutions were generated using maximum likelihood esti- The decomposition of the direct and indirect effects of the mation and bootstrapping based on 500 samples. The pro- variables is listed in Table 4. posed model provided a good fit for the obtained results, with Since any predictor had either direct or indirect effect on 2 2 a χ = 9.14, p = .17, df = 6, χ /df = 1.53, adjusted goodness a given criterion variable, total effect which is simply sum of for fit index (AGFI) = .97, comparative fit index (CFI) = .99, direct and indirect effects is nonsense here. According to our normal fit index (NFI) = .99, relative fit index (RFI) = .97, results, rationality could positively predict levels of elective and root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) = selection (γ = .291, p = .004), loss-based selection (γ = .03 (Arbuckle, 2009). Model included covariance of the .232, p = .003), optimization (γ = .376, p = .002), and com- residual variance between SOC. Inspection of the modifica- pensation (γ = .319, p = .002). In contrast, experientiality tion indices revealed that no modifications to the model were predicted elective selection (γ = −.209, p = .004), loss-based necessary. We also studied an alternative model with direct selection (γ = −.169, p = .003), optimization (γ = −.087, effects of information processing styles and SOC components p = .035), and compensation (γ = −.096, p = .028) reversely. on SWB. Model fit indices including χ = 105.562, p = .000, It is notable that regression weights of experientiality on df = 8, χ /df = 13.19, AGFI = .74, CFI = .94, NFI = .94, optimization and correlation were significant at p ≤ .05. RFI = .71, and RMSEA = .17 indicated a poor fitness. Satisfaction with life was positively predicted by elective Moreover, direct effects in the alternative model were not sta- selection (β = .147, p = .010), loss-based selection (β = .323, tistically significant: rationality to satisfaction with life (γ = p = .003), optimization (β = .191, p = .006), and compensa- .07, p = .08), rationality to positive affects (γ = .02, p = .65), tion (β = .131, p = .035). Positive affects were also positively rationality to negative affects (γ = −.04, p = .26), experien- influenced by elective selection (β = .161, p = .004), loss- tiality to satisfaction with life (γ = −.02, p = .56), based selection (β = .358, p = .005), optimization (β = .192, 6 SAGE Open Elective-selection Satisfaction with .291** .147** Life .161** .323** .191** Rational Loss-based .131* .232** selection .358** Positive affects -.209** .376** .192** Optimization -.169** -.210** -.087* Experiential -.145** -.096* .319** .117 .169** -.152* Negative affects -.217** Compensation Figure 2. The model of relationships between information processing styles, SOC, and SWB. N = 440. Standardized regression coefficients are tagged to the connectors. The coefficients on rectangles represent squared multiple correlations. For competing models, direct paths were shown to be nonsignificant, and hence we concluded that all paths were indirect involving significant mediators. Table 3. Squared Multiple Correlations with 95% Confidence Significant indirect effects of rationality and experientiality Interval (CI) for Endogenous Variables. on satisfaction with life, positive affects, and negative affects through SOC indicated that SOC plays an important mediat- Lower Upper ing role. Parameter R bound bound p value Elective selection .141 .080 .210 .006 Discussion Loss-based selection .091 .043 .144 .007 Optimization .156 .102 .219 .004 In this study, we built our model based on the notion that Compensation .117 .067 .182 .004 SOC strategies would mediate the effects of information pro- Satisfaction with life .419 .333 .485 .010 cessing style to SWB. The results of the path analysis con- Positive affects .515 .436 .582 .006 firming a fully mediated model supported the hypothesis. Negative affects .355 .265 .449 .006 This is the unique contribution of our study that provides, for the first time, empirical evidence for the theoretical explana- tion of how information processing styles may make a differ- p = .003), and compensation (β = .169, p = .005). SOC com- ence in SWB through strategies one uses to gain his or her ponents could also predict negative affects reversely: elective desired objectives. selection (β = −.210, p = .004), loss-based selection (β = Correlation coefficients coupled with the regression −.145, p = .003), optimization (β = −.152, p = .028), and weights in the path analysis supported the positive effect of compensation (β = −.217, p = .005). β coefficients of com- rational style and negative effect of experiential style on all pensation to positive affects and optimization to negative four strategies of SOC. Rational processing style had stron- affects were significant at p ≤ .05. ger (β = .232 to .376) effect on all SOC components than did We were especially interested in indirect effects of infor- experiential processing style (β = −.096 to −.209). Yet both mation processing styles on SWB components. Rationality styles were significant predictors of SOC. had indirect positive affects on both satisfaction with life (γ.β We could not find empirical investigations on the rela- = .231, p = .005) and positive affects (γ.β = .256, p = .002). tionship between information processing and SOC; yet, It also indirectly influenced levels of negative affects (γ.β = some researchers have studied other cognitive factors. −.221, p = .001). In contrast, experientiality was a negative Freund and Baltes (2002) showed hierarchic thinking style indirect predictor for satisfaction with life (γ.β = −.115, p = (distinguished by Sternberg) is positively correlated to SOC .003) and positive affects (γ.β = −.127, p = .003). As we had components, whereas the monarchic style was associated expected, experientiality could positively predict negative only with ES. Schmeichel and Demaree (2010) indicated that affects through SOC components (γ.β = .231, p = .005). higher working memory capacity leads to more engagement Shirzadifard et al. 7 Table 4. Decomposition of Standardized Direct and Indirect Effects with 95% CI. Paths Direct L U p value Indirect L U p value To elective selection from Rationality .291 .208 .371 .004 − Experientiality −.209 −.301 −.107 .004 − To loss-based selection from Rationality .232 .151 .333 .003 − Experientiality −.169 −.272 −.082 .003 − To optimization from Rationality .376 .304 .457 .002 − Experientiality −.087 −.168 −.013 .035 − To compensation from: Rationality .319 .238 .408 .002 − Experientiality −.096 −.199 −.014 .028 − To satisfaction with life from Rationality − .231 .167 .290 .005 Experientiality − −.115 −.185 −.050 .003 Elective selection .147 .053 .253 .010 − Loss-based selection .323 .238 .423 .003 − Optimization .191 .071 .300 .006 − Compensation .131 .013 .261 .035 − To positive affects from Rationality − .256 .200 .336 .002 Experientiality − −.127 −.202 −.052 .003 Elective selection .161 .065 .257 .004 − Loss-based selection .358 .256 .448 .005 − Optimization .192 .093 .314 .003 − Compensation .169 .070 .279 .005 − To negative affects from Rationality − −.221 −.304 −.170 .001 Experientiality − .102 .049 .165 .003 Elective selection −.210 −.309 −.103 .004 − Loss-based selection −.145 −.262 −.057 .003 − Optimization −.152 −.277 −.015 .028 − Compensation −.217 −.333 −.096 .005 − Note. L = Lower bound; U = Upper bound; CI = confidence interval. in self-enhancement after negative feedback. Both working that the negative relation of the experiential processing style memory and simultaneous processing involved in reasoning to SOC, and therefore SWB, does make sense. are related to life management (Friedman & Scholnick, SOC is a part of intentional self-regulation (Gestsdottir 1997). Our findings regarding information processing style et al., 2009) which involves the conscious control of goal- were totally in this vein but against Prenda and Lachman directed thought and action. It requires self-evaluations, cap- (2001) whose study showed the lack of predictive ability of turing directions for future actions, a sense of personal future, both memory span and reasoning for SOC. and internalization of standards (Jelicic et al., 2007). “S,” Some researchers support the idea that the experiential “O,” and “C” strategies are conscious steps toward a goal processing style would positively correlate to positive out- based on rational representations, perceptions, and reactions comes. Norris and Epstein (2011), for instance, indicated the to the context. The process-oriented rational information pro- relation of an experiential thinking style to the objective cessing style allows selecting and sequencing some actions. It favorable attributes of creativity, aesthetic judgment, humor, is only the reason-oriented nature of rationality that makes and intuition. Here, in contrast, we found negative effects of one able to contemplate a problem and realize the discrep- experientiality on SOC components (directly) and SWB ancy between a goal and a present state to refine goal-relevant indicators (indirectly). It may seem confusing at first but a means or the goal set itself. We think it is quite explicit that a closer look at the nature of positive outcomes in this study rational information processing style helps using SOC strate- and those mentioned by Norris and Epstein (2011) clarifies gies but how about experiential processing style? 8 SAGE Open Experiential information processing is self-evident and how they actively and intentionally regulate their lives. often stereotypical. It acts in a preconscious, holistic, auto- Intentional self-regulation (Gestsdottir et al., 2009) is the matic, intuitive, and crudely integrated manner (Epstein, 2008; ability to select goals, optimize resources to achieve the Klaczynski et al., 1998). The outcome-oriented nature of goals, and compensate against weaknesses. These skills experientiality prevents planning conscious steps toward an relate to contribution to family, community, and self (Freund end. It has a very limited ability to think abstractly to structure & Baltes, 2002). Given the vast array of unexpected contex- a hierarchic goal set. It is against proper redirecting or changes tual changes, a person must effectively use SOC to maximize following disproving evidence as it needs repetitive or intense the adaptive integration of changes (Wiese et al., 2002). This experience to be changed. The experiential processing style is is crucial for a sense of satisfaction and a positive emotion pleasure–pain oriented and toward immediate action to gain toward the existing situation (Gestsdottir et al., 2010). These what feels good (Norris & Epstein, 2011) at the moment and regulations reduce failures by focusing on reachable goals therefore may not suggest reactions suitable for a favorable that converge with environmental demands, individual but delayed goal. Accordingly, we see the negative relation of capacities, and personal desires. As some social or personal experientiality to SOC components in line with both CEST factors can make a given goal unattainable, disengagement and life management theory. Conversely, although creativity is to the goal and reengage in alternative goals (LBS) will be in not considered as a component of SWB, positive outcomes favor of a sense of SWB (Wrosch et al., 2003). such as favorable attributes of creativity, humor, and intuition To answer the question “How” information processing (Norris & Epstein, 2011) do not require rational processing style may contribute to well-being, we should consider a and do not share the characteristics of SOC strategies. more active individual–environment interaction. Each per- Back to the question “who plans?” our results, built on the son presented with a combination of expected and unex- premises of CEST, answers “the one who is more rational pected events has his interpretation, which may be rational. and less experiential.” Some previous studies have suggested The preferred processing style determines the interplay of that age (Prenda & Lachman, 2001), gender, education, and acting in situations and managing resources to gain the most income (Bowers et al., 2011; Prenda & Lachman, 2001) pleasure and the least failure. So, as we showed (through a determine planning. We argue that the preferred information fully mediated model) information processing style does not processing style would also make a difference. Coexisting directly influence satisfaction with life and happiness, it rational and experiential systems serve as adaptive systems, rather indicates how people manage their sources toward a each with its limitations (Epstein, 2008). Rational informa- sense of satisfaction and emotional balance by making ratio- tion processing is crucial for the application of SOC in ill- nal choices and taking proper actions. structured real-world planning. So those with a prominent We claim that our results may provide empirical evidence experiential system most probably produce nonstrategic for the fruitfulness of the action-theoretical approach of the reactions to situations (Friedman & Scholnick, 1997). They SOC model to expand the explanations of CEST for indi- may not regulate their lives intentionally and use less effec- vidual differences. Through combining CEST and SOC the- tive management strategies. They would fail in anticipation ories, underlying paths to well-being are more clearly of contingencies, monitoring, and using flexible strategies understood. Recent conceptualizations include more dynamic (Larson & Hansen, 2005). processes to understand the causes of human behavior. SOC We also showed that all SOC components are positive strategies that optimally contribute to adaptive development predictors of satisfaction with life and positive affects but can be learned by individuals. Dynamic models can provide negative predictors of negative affects. These findings are in a set of more active regulations to improve strengths and good cohesion with past studies. Studies have repeatedly compensate for shortages. This understanding is equally confirmed the positive association between SOC and mea- important in terms of practical implications in psychotherapy sures of mental well-being, social competence (Buckner and effective interventions. The information processing style et al., 2009), life satisfaction (Freund & Baltes, 2002; Prenda is also flexible when one is aware of its nature and knows & Lachman, 2001), sense of purpose in life (Jelicic et al., how to intentionally handle it (Klaczynski et al., 1998). Thus, 2007), positive emotions (Freund & Baltes, 2002), subjective learning more rational cognitive processing facilitates more indicators of successful development (Bowers et al., 2011; usage of the three SOC components, thereby providing a vast Gestsdottir & Lerner, 2007), and personal growth (Freund & variety of options for well-being. Baltes, 2002). It is also evidenced that SOC strategies corre- late negatively with substance use, delinquency (Gestsdottir Limitations & Lerner, 2007), problematic development, depressive symptoms (Gestsdottir et al., 2010), sexual risk-taking One limitation of the present study is the cross-sectional (Jelicic et al., 2007), depression, drinking, smoking, and bul- nature of the data. The university student sample recruited in lying (Gestsdottir et al., 2009). this research provides limitations for generalization of the SOC model from an action-theoretical framework (Wiese results to the wider society. Cultural variation may be a et al., 2002) emphasizes the agency of human beings to show source of methodological problems as the SOC measure was Shirzadifard et al. 9 originally developed in Germany and it may not apply in the Bowers, E. P., Gestsdottir, S., Geldhof, G. J., Nikitin, J., von Eye, A., & Lerner, R. M. (2011). Developmental trajectories of same way among Iranian participants. Self-report measures intentional self regulation in adolescence: The role of parenting may provide socially desirable answering instead of repre- and implications for positive and problematic outcomes among senting the real response. The problem might become more diverse youth. Journal of Adolescence, 34(6), 1193–1206. grave with the experiential processing scale in which word- Buckner, J. C., Mezzacappa, E., & Beardslee, W. R. (2009). Self- ing of the items in the Persian version may not completely regulation and its relations to adaptive functioning in low correspond to those of the English one. Future research income youths. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 79(1), should look deeper into the relation of information process- 19–30. ing style and SOC through longitudinal or controlled experi- Dickinson, T. L., & Tice, T. E. (1977). The discriminant validity mental designs. Such studies would be critical to identify and of scales developed by retranslation. Personnel Psychology, clarify the mechanisms that may be involved in the relation- 30(2), 217–228. ship between intentional self-regulation and SWB. Diener, E., & Lucas, R. E. (2000). Explaining differences in soci- etal levels of happiness: Relative standards, need fulfillment, Moreover, based on previous research, we were con- culture, and evaluation theory. Journal of Happiness Studies, vinced that Persian is a highly complicated and mystic lan- 1(1), 41–78. guage which has structural difference with English, and Epstein, S. (1998). Cognitive-experiential self-theory. In D. F. hence, the word-by-word translation would not be suitable if Barone, M. Hersen, & V. B. Van Hasselt (Eds.), Advanced we wanted to convey the meaning of the sentences. Therefore, personality. The plenum series in social/clinical psychology while trying to stay faithful to the original inventory, we (pp 211–238). Springer. broke and reworded some sentences to make them “Persian,” Epstein, S. (2008). Intuition from the perspective of cognitive- and hence, more understandable to our participants (to see experiential self-theory. In H. Plessner, C. Betsch, & T. Betsch more on linguistic adaptations, see Dickinson & Tice, 1977). (Eds.), Intuition in judgment and decision making (pp. 23–37). Another limitation of our study is the SOC questionnaire Erlbaum. shows a relatively low reliability (fewer than 0.70) for some Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Buchner, A., & Lang, A. (2009). Statistical power analyses using G*Power 3.1: Tests for correlation and subscales. Therefore, when talking about the relationships regression analyses. Behavior Research Methods, 41(4), 1149– concerning subscales, we have to be careful of possible mea- surement errors. Freund, A. M. (2008). Successful aging as management of These were some of the limitations of the current study. resources: The role of selection, optimization, and compensa- But in sum, the present structural model for explaining well- tion. Research in Human Development, 5(2), 94–106. being is more efficient than models that show linear relation- Freund, A. M., & Baltes, P. B. (2002). Life-management strategies ships. Moreover, this model can provide more flexible and of selection, optimization and compensation: Measurement by intervening explanations. self-report and construct validity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(4), 642–662. Declaration of Conflicting Interests Friedman, S. L., & Scholnick, E. K. (1997). The developmental psychology of planning: Why, how, and when do we plan? The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect Erlbaum. to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Gestsdottir, S., Bowers, E., Von Eye, A., Napolitano, C. M., & Lerner, R. M. (2010). Intentional self regulation in middle ado- Funding lescence: The emerging role of loss-based selection in positive The author(s) received no financial support for the research, author- youth development. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39(7), ship, and/or publication of this article. 764–782. Gestsdottir, S., & Lerner, R. M. (2007). Intentional self-regula- ORCID iD tion and positive youth development in early adolescence: Findings from the 4-h study of positive youth development. Ehsan Shahghasemi https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8716-5806 Developmental Psycholory, 43(2), 508–521. Gestsdottir, S., Lewin-Bizan, S., von Eye, A., Lerner, J. V., & References Lerner, R. M. (2009). The structure and function of selec- Andrews, F. M., & Robinson, J. P. (1991). 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SAGE OpenSAGE

Published: Oct 25, 2020

Keywords: information processing style,life management strategies,subjective well-being,cognitive-experiential self-theory

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