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Early approach and avoidance tendencies can be goal-directed: Support from a transcranial magnetic stimulation study.

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Dual-process models with a default-interventionist architecture explain early emotional action tendencies by a stimulus-driven process, and they allow goal-directed processes to intervene only in a later stage. An alternative dual-process model with a parallel-competitive architecture developed by Moors, Boddez, and De Houwer (Emotion Review, 9(4), 310-318, 2017), in contrast, explains early emotional action tendencies by a goal-directed process. This model proposes that stimulus-driven and goal-directed processes often operate in parallel and compete with each other, and that if they do compete, the goal-directed process often wins the competition. To examine these predictions, we set up a goal-directed process in an experimental group by rewarding participants for avoiding positive stimuli and for approaching negative stimuli and punishing them for the opposite behavior. We expected this process to compete with a potentially preexisting stimulus-driven process in which positive stimuli are associated with approach and negative stimuli with avoidance. We compared the elicited action tendencies of participants in this group with a control group in which only the stimulus-driven process could operate. Early approach and avoidance tendencies were assessed via motor evoked potentials (MEP) measured in the finger muscles previously trained to approach or to avoid stimuli after single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) delivered at 400 ms. Results confirmed that positive/negative stimuli led to stronger avoidance/approach tendencies in the experimental group but not to approach/avoidance tendencies in the control group. This suggests that goal-directed processes are indeed able to determine relatively early emotional action tendencies, but it does not show that goal-directed process can defeat stimulus-driven processes.
Journal: Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience
ISSN: 1530-7026
Issue: 3
Volume: 20
Pages: 648 - 657