Dispositional Anger and the Resolution of the Approach–Avoidance Conflict

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The approach–avoidance conflict is one in which approaching reward brings increased threat while avoiding threat means forgoing reward. This conflict can be uniquely informative because it will be resolved in different ways depending on whether approach (toward) or avoidance (away from) is the stronger motive. Two studies (total N = 191) created a computerized version of this conflict and used the test to examine questions of motivational direction in anger. In Study 1, noise blast provocations increased the frequency of approach behaviors at high levels of trait anger, but decreased their frequency at low levels. In Study 2, a simpler version of the conflict test was used to predict anger in daily life. As hypothesized, greater approach frequencies in the test predicted greater anger reactivity to daily provocations and frustrations. The discussion focuses on the utility of the approach–avoidance conflict test and on questions of motivational direction in anger.

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