The proposed research addresses the possibility of character development through a recalibration of individuals’ tendencies to overly weight either positive or negative valence. Valence weighting is a fundamental process arising whenever individuals need to integrate the positive and negative features of a novel object or situation in order to assess it and reach a behavioral decision. Hence, valence weighting is a process that is critical across diverse domains. Some individuals display a chronic tendency to weight one valence more heavily than the other. However, our recent research indicates that these tendencies can be recalibrated by corrective feedback over multiple trials regarding the objectively appropriate weighting of the extent to which a novel object resembles known positives versus known negatives. The proposed experiments involve the identification and recruitment of individuals with specific characteristics related to overweighting (e.g., those characterized by hypersensitivity to the possibility of interpersonal rejection, exaggerated anxiety regarding events that have only the potential to becoming threatening, excessive risk, or poor self-control). The experiments employ a variety of judgmental and behavioral outcome measures to examine whether recalibration toward a more balanced approach to positive and negative valence leads to improvement in the problematic domain. The research aims to demonstrate that the recalibration procedure can produce far-reaching consequences and, hence, has the potential to serve as a useful intervention tool. The project is expected to produce multiple peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations, as well as a web-based version of the recalibration procedure available for use as a research or educational tool. More generally, the findings should establish, and call attention to, the fundamental importance of valence weighting and, thus, promote further research on this very central topic.
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