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What you want to avoid is what you see: Social avoidance motivation affects the interpretation of emotional faces


Nikitin, Jana; Freund, Alexandra M (2015). What you want to avoid is what you see: Social avoidance motivation affects the interpretation of emotional faces. Motivation & Emotion, 39(3):384-391.

Abstract

This study investigated the effects of habitual social approach and avoidance motivation on the classification of facial expressions of different visual clarity. Participants (N = 78) categorized partially masked emotional faces expressing either anger or happiness as positive or negative. Participants generally tended to interpret the facial expressions in a positive way. This positivity effect was reduced when persons were highly avoidance motivated. Social avoidance motivation predicted fewer positive and more negative interpretations in the least visible condition that provided extremely little information on the facial expression. Thus, people high in social avoidance motivation are likely to have anticipated angry faces as the facial stimuli offered only minimal information. The results for social approach motivation did not reach statistical significance. To conclude, it seems that persons who are most afraid of having negative social interactions (i.e., those high in social avoidance motivation), anticipate and interpret social information in the most negative way, which could lead to the reinforcement of the avoidance motivation.

This study investigated the effects of habitual social approach and avoidance motivation on the classification of facial expressions of different visual clarity. Participants (N = 78) categorized partially masked emotional faces expressing either anger or happiness as positive or negative. Participants generally tended to interpret the facial expressions in a positive way. This positivity effect was reduced when persons were highly avoidance motivated. Social avoidance motivation predicted fewer positive and more negative interpretations in the least visible condition that provided extremely little information on the facial expression. Thus, people high in social avoidance motivation are likely to have anticipated angry faces as the facial stimuli offered only minimal information. The results for social approach motivation did not reach statistical significance. To conclude, it seems that persons who are most afraid of having negative social interactions (i.e., those high in social avoidance motivation), anticipate and interpret social information in the most negative way, which could lead to the reinforcement of the avoidance motivation.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
08 University Research Priority Programs > Dynamics of Healthy Aging
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:01 Apr 2015 15:14
Last Modified:25 Apr 2016 14:14
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0146-7239
Additional Information:The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11031-014-9459-5
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-014-9459-5
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-110044

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