When wanting and fearing go together: The effect of co-occurring social approach and avoidance motivation on behavior, affect, and cognition

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Abstract

Three studies investigated the association of social approach and avoidance motivation with cognition, behavior, emotions, and subjective well-being. Study 1 (N = 245), a correlative self-report study, showed that approach and avoidance motivation mediated the effects of adult attachment-styles on social anxiety. A secure attachment-style was associated with co-occurring approach and avoidance motivation. Study 2, a social-interaction study (N = 38), revealed an association of avoidance motivation with a negative experience and passive behavior, and approach motivation with a positive experience and active behavior. Interestingly, the interaction of approach and avoidance motivation predicted engaged behavior and a positive emotional experience. Study 3 (N = 203), an online survey, showed that subjective well-being was negatively associated with high avoidance motivation, irrespective of the strength of approach motivation. Taken together, the studies show that social approach and avoidance motivation interact in predicting positive experiences and social behavior in a concrete social situation. However, from the long-term perspective, the negative consequences of social avoidance motivation seem to prevail when approach and avoidance motivation co-occur. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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