When Ignoring Negative Feedback Is Functional: Presenting a Model of Motivated Feedback Disengagement

Felix Grundmann*, Susanne Scheibe, Kai Epstude

*Corresponding author for this work

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Contrary to popular belief, negative feedback occasionally hinders performance improvements. Investigations targeting this feedback-performance gap usually rest on two assumptions: (a) Feedback recipients want to improve their performance (have an improvement goal), and (b) feedback recipients engage with the negative feedback. We argue that people sometimes disengage from negative feedback for hedonic-goal attainment (to feel good). To explain such functional feedback disengagement, we conceptualize feedback processing from an emotion-regulation perspective, the model of motivated feedback disengagement. We posit that feedback-induced negative affect may render hedonic goals more salient than improvement goals, motivating emotion regulation. After forming the intention to regulate their emotions, feedback recipients select and implement an emotion-regulation strategy. We consider two common engagement strategies (reappraisal and feedback focus) and two common disengagement strategies (distraction and feedback removal). These strategies differentially impact recipients’ affect and feedback processing. Strategy-, person-, and situation-related factors influence strategy choice. Feedback processing is cyclical and dynamically unfolds over time. The model provides novel directions for future investigations and practical implications for stakeholders in negative-feedback contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-10
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number1
Early online date25-Nov-2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • negative feedback
  • emotion regulation
  • feedback processing
  • motivation
  • performance

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