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Title: On angry approach and fearful avoidance: The goal-dependent nature of emotional approach and avoidance tendencies
Authors: Bossuyt, Evelien
Moors, Agnes
De Houwer, Jan #
Issue Date: Sep-2012
Conference: European Social Cognition Network (ESCON) Transfer of Knowledge Conference location:Estoril, Portugal date:September 2012
Abstract: Previous research has revealed that anger typically accompanies the goal to approach the emotion-evoking
stimulus whereas fear typically accompanies the goal to avoid the emotion-evoking stimulus. Five experiments
were set up to investigate why and under which conditions this set of relations emerges. In four stimulusresponse
compatibility experiments, participants moved a manikin toward or away from an opponent after an
anger or a fear word appeared on their manikin (Experiments 1 and 3) or on the opponent (Experiments 2 and
4). We manipulated the implication of approach and avoidance for the goal to aggress and/or dominate the
opponent and for the goal to be safe and/or submissive. In Experiments 1 and 2, approach involved attacking
the opponent (serving the aggression/dominance goal) whereas avoidance involved fleeing from the opponent
(serving the safety/submission goal). In Experiments 3 and 4, approach led to a begging response (serving the
safety/submission goal) whereas avoidance involved stubbornly turning one’s back to the opponent (serving
the aggression/dominance goal). The relation between anger/fear and approach/avoidance seemed to depend
both on the location of the emotion word (participant vs. opponent) and the goal reached by approach and
avoidance. In a fifth experiment, approach and avoidance resulted in mere distance reduction and increase.
Participants rated approach and avoidance behaviors afterwards on the dimensions of power/dominance,
aggression/hostility, and valence. Our data suggest that a reason why anger often is associated with approach
and fear with avoidance is that approach is seen as more dominant than avoidance.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Non-KU Leuven Association publications
# (joint) last author

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