“Active coping with uncontrollability: Cognitive effort investment as a personal control restoration strategy”. OPUS 21 grant awarded to Marcin Bukowski by the Polish National Science Centre (2021 – 2026).
Health problems, underperformance at school or work, prolonged unemployment, as well as global threats such as economic, ecological and public health crises are examples of situations that can evoke a strong sense of uncontrollability. A common response to prolonged control deprivation experiences relies on passive coping strategies that can be characterized by motivational withdrawal and avoidance. Active or problem-focused coping is often discarded as it brings the costs of anticipated effortful actions. The current state of research in the domain of cognitive, motivational, social and health psychology does not provide a clear answer to the questions of what are the mechanisms leading to investment of cognitive effort and how such effortful information processing can be effectively potentiated when people experience a lack of control. In this project, we aim at investigating the specific conditions that facilitate the investment of cognitive effort in uncontrollable situations. More specifically, we plan to investigate how the factors of behavioral uncertainty associated with lack of control experiences and cognitive effort valuation affect subjective experiences of agency and control but also how they shape the performance on cognitively demanding tasks. We also plan to investigate, by using newly developed experimental paradigms manipulating the level of behavioral uncertainty and valuation of effort, how the use of active coping strategies as a response to uncontrollability can be enhanced. We expect that this research can advance our understanding of how effective active coping mechanisms with uncontrollability work and how individuals can gain immunity against the detrimental impact of helplessness, apathy and alienation on their health-related and social behavior.