Recent findings suggest that the unconscious activation of the motivational orientations of approach and avoidance is accompanied by the adoption of a more global and a more local processing style, respectively. A global processing style, in turn, is assumed to instigate a focus on similarities whereas a local processing style is assumed to instigate a focus on differences. Integrating these two ideas, the present research examines the hypothesis that participants under approach perceive objects as more similar to each other than participants under avoidance. To test this assumption, we induced the two motivational orientations and elicited judgments of similarities (Experiments 1 and 2) and differences (Experiment 2) for pairs of pictures. Results confirmed the hypothesis. We propose that the relative attunement to similarities/differences under approach/avoidance is functional because it allows for a flexible conceptualization of the environment/an ability to discern slight deviations from what is expected.
- Processing style