Automatic vigilance: The attention-grabbing power of approach-avoidance-related social information

Department of Psychology, University of Münster, Germany.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Impact Factor: 5.08). 07/2000; 78(6):1024-37. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.78.6.1024
Source: PubMed


The automatic processing of information was investigated, varying valence (positive vs. negative) and relevance (other-relevant traits [ORT] vs. possessor-relevant traits [PRT]; G. Peeters, 1983) of stimuli. ORTs denote unconditionally positive or negative consequences for persons in the social environment of the holder of the trait (e.g., honest, brutal) whereas PRTs denote unconditionally positive or negative consequences for the trait holder (e.g., happy, depressive). In 2 experiments using the Stroop paradigm, larger interference effects were found for ORTs than PRTs. This is due to the behavior-relatedness of ORTs. In a go/no-go lexical decision task (Experiment 3), participants either had to withdraw their finger from a pressed key (i.e., "avoid") or had to press a key (i.e., "approach") if a word was presented. Responses to negative ORTs were relatively faster in the withdraw condition, whereas positive ORTs were relatively faster in the press condition.

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Available from: Klaus Rothermund, Jun 27, 2014
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    • "The symmetric nature of the retrieval effect is in line with (neuro)cognitive research addressing the question of which information is preferentially processed by the cognitive system. Specifically, it has been shown that it is not the negativity of a given stimulus but rather its current motivational and behavioral relevance that determines processing biases, as reflected in indicators of attentional capture and modulations of EEG recordings (Brosch, Sander, Pourtois, & Scherer, 2008;Müller, Rothermund, & Wentura, in press;Rothermund, 2011;Rothermund, Voss, & Wentura, 2008;Rothermund, Wentura, & Bak, 2001;Schupp et al., 2004;Wentura, Müller, & Rothermund, 2014;Wentura, Rothermund, & Bak, 2000). It is possible to argue that the hypothesis of a cheater memory advantage is based on gametheoretical ideas that may represent an overly simplified view of human cooperation. "
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    ABSTRACT: Models of reciprocity imply that cheater detection is an important prerequisite for successful social exchange. Considering the fundamental role of memory in reciprocal exchange, these theories lead to the prediction that memory for cheaters should be preferentially enhanced. Here, we examine whether information of a partner’s previous behavior in an interaction is automatically retrieved when encountering the face of a partner who previously cheated or cooperated. In two studies, participants played a sequential prisoner’s dilemma game with cheaters and cooperative partners. Alternating with the game blocks, participants were asked to classify the smiling or angry facial expressions of cooperators and cheaters. Both experiments revealed congruence effects, reflecting faster identification of the smiles of cooperators (Experiments 1 & 2) and faster identification of the angry facial expressions of cheaters (Experiment 2). Our study provides evidence for the automatic retrieval of the partner’s behavior in the game, regardless of whether partners cheated or cooperated, and thus provides further evidence against the cheater detection hypothesis.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2016 · Cognition and Emotion
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    • "Previous research has found that valenced stimuli interact with compatible approach and avoidance responses; usually facilitation is shown by shorter approach/avoidance congruent responses (Chen & Bargh, 1999; Duckworth et al., 2002; Rinck & Becker, 2007; Seidel et al., 2010; Solarz, 1960; Stins et al., 2011; Wentura et al., 2000). By contrast, in our study, stepping did not show such interaction, as the valence of the conduct verb did not significantly interfere with forward and backward stepping. "
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    ABSTRACT: Approach and avoidance tendencies towards valenced others could be associated with our interpersonal conduct towards them: helping would be associated with approach tendency, and harming (or denying help) would be associated with avoidance. We propose that the encoding of this association enjoys attentional priority, as approach/avoidance representations of past interactions would regulate one's predisposition to either help or harm in subsequent interactions. Participants listened to interactions conveying positive/negative conduct between 2 characters. The conduct verb was then presented visually with a cue prompting participants to quickly step forward or backward. Subsequently, they performed a recognition task of noncentral story details. In matching conditions (positive conduct-step forward, negative conduct-step backward) the concurrent step should interfere with the encoding of motor representation of the conduct verb, and the verb encoding should divert attentional resources from the consolidation of memory traces of less relevant information. Results showed the predicted impairment in the recognition task in matching conditions, which supports an attentional bias towards encoding motor approach/avoidance representation of interpersonal conduct in the process of comprehending narrated interactions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology
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    • "In our study this increase of RT for negative words was significant when compared to positive, but not when compared to neutral words. These findings can be attributed to the " automatic vigilance " hypothesis implying that people tend to focus their attention preferentially on negative stimuli and can also rather difficult dissolve it from them (Wentura et al., 2000; Öhman and Mineka, 2001). This is in line with findings by Estes and Verges (2008) who postulated a slower disentanglement of attention from negative stimuli and with an approach by Larsen et al. (2008) "
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: Automatic emotional processing of faces and facial expressions gain more and more of relevance in terms of social communication. Among a variety of different primes, targets and tasks, whole face images and facial expressions have been used to affectively prime emotional responses. This study investigates whether emotional information provided solely in eye regions that display mental states can also trigger affective priming. Methods: Sixteen subjects answered a lexical decision task (LDT) coupled with an affective priming paradigm. Emotion-associated eye regions were extracted from photographs of faces and acted as primes, whereas targets were either words or pseudo-words. Participants had to decide whether the targets were real German words or generated pseudo-words. Primes and targets belonged to the emotional categories “fear,” “disgust,” “happiness,” and “neutral.” Results: A general valence effect for positive words was observed: responses in the LDT were faster for target words of the emotional category happiness when compared to other categories. Importantly, pictures of emotional eye regions preceding the target words affected their subsequent classification. While we show a classical priming effect for neutral target words – with shorter RT for congruent compared to incongruent prime-target pairs- , we observed an inverse priming effect for fearful and happy target words – with shorter RT for incongruent compared to congruent prime-target pairs. These inverse priming effects were driven exclusively by specific prime-target pairs. Conclusion: Reduced facial emotional information is sufficient to induce automatic implicit emotional processing. The emotional-associated eye regions were processed with respect to their emotional valence and affected the performance on the LDT.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Frontiers in Psychology
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