A new look at sensorimotor aspects in approach/avoidance tendencies: The role of visual whole-body movement information


Because approach/avoidance is a crucial response to environmental stimuli, this type of action should have left its trace on our sensorimotor system. Recent work, however, downplayed the role of sensorimotor information in producing approach/avoidance compatibility effects (i.e., faster response times to approach positive stimuli and avoid negative stimuli, than the reverse). We suggest that this is likely due to an overemphasis of the role of motor aspects of arm movement in these effects. The goal of this research is therefore to reevaluate the role of sensorimotor information in the production of compatibility effects by suggesting that large and replicable effects can be observed when the task simulates the visual information that comes with whole-body movements. In line with this idea, we present six experiments showing that such a task (the Visual Approach/Avoidance by the Self Task; VAAST) can produce large and replicable compatibility effects. Importantly, these experiments also test the core aspects producing these effects. These experiments reassert the role of sensorimotor information in the production of approach/avoidance compatibility effects. This entails, however, focusing on the visual information associated with whole-body movements instead of motor aspects associated with arm movements.

In Journal of Experimental Social Psychology