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Susan Bamford, Robert Ward; Predispositions to approach and avoid are contextually sensitive and goal dependent. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):611. doi: 10.1167/8.6.611.
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We show that predispositions to approach and avoid do not consist simply of specific motor patterns but are more abstract functions that produce a desired environmental effect. It has been claimed that evaluating a visual stimulus as positive or negative evokes a specific motor response, extending the arm to negative stimuli, and contracting to positive stimuli. We showed that a large congruency effect (participants were faster to approach pleasant and avoid unpleasant stimuli, than approach unpleasant and avoid pleasant stimuli) could be produced on a novel touchscreen paradigm (Experiment 1), and that the congruency effect could be reversed by spatial (Experiment 2), and non-spatial (Experiment 3), response effects. Thus, involuntary approach and avoid response activations are not fixed, but sensitive to context, and are specifically based on the desired goal.
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