Avoidance-approach: The fifth basic conflict

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The basic conflicts are usually listed as approach-approach, approach-avoidance, avoidance-avoidance, and double approach-avoidance conflict. The possibility of avoidance-approach conflict, in which a steeper gradient of approach intersects a gradient of avoidance, has been ignored because it is assumed that approach gradients cannot be steeper than avoidance gradients and that even if avoidance-approach conflict could exist, it would be of no interest, as the individual would simply stay away from the conflicting goal. The present article shows that approach gradients can often be steeper than avoidance gradients. It is further noted that individuals can be placed in situations not of their choosing. It is suggested that if an individual with an avoidance-approach conflict is placed on the goal side of the intersection of the gradients, the person may enthusiastically approach a goal that had previously been avoided. Thus, avoidance-approach conflict may account for ego-alien behavior, such as when a shy, inhibited “model” boy commits a violent crime of passion. Implications and causes of avoidance-approach conflict in everyday life are discussed. (32 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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