Movement direction or change in distance? Self- and object-related approach-avoidance motions

Beate Seibt, Roland Neumann, Ravit Nussinson, Fritz Strack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Based on the conceptualization of approach as a decrease in distance and avoidance as an increase in distance, we predicted that stimuli with positive valence facilitate behavior for either approaching the stimulus (object as reference point) or for bringing the stimulus closer (self as reference point) and that stimuli with negative valence facilitate behavior for withdrawing from the stimulus or for pushing the stimulus away. In Study 1, we found that motions to and from a computer screen where positive and negative words were presented lead to compatibility effects indicative of an object-related frame of reference. In Study 2, we replicated this finding using social stimuli with different evaluative associations (young vs. old persons). Finally, we present evidence that self vs. object reference points can be induced through instruction and thus lead to opposite compatibility effects even when participants make the same objective motion (Study 3).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-720
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. We thank Roland Deutsch, Thomas Dunlap, and Michael Häfner for valuable comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.


  • Approach and avoidance behavior
  • Compatibility effects
  • Implicit measures
  • Prejudice


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