"Science manipulates the things and lives in them": Reconsidering approach-avoidance operationalization through a grounded cognition perspective

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Approach and avoidance orientations are key elements of adaptive regulation at the evaluation-behavior interface. On the one hand, continuous evaluations of the world fuel approach-avoidance reactions as a function of the individual's immediate environment. On the other hand, in turn these individual-environment adjustments influence evaluations. A grounded perspective of social cognition, placing the sensorimotor aspects of individual-environment interactions at the core of cognition, has much to offer for the understanding of evaluative processes. Despite the growing enthusiasm for a grounded view of cognition and action in the approach-avoidance literature, its core principles are seldom reflected at the operationalization level. In this paper, we relied on the insights of a grounded perspective to propose more encompassing operationalizations of approach-avoidance orientations and investigate their influence on evaluations. Across six studies, we varied the approach-avoidance operationalizations (upper-body incline, upper-body posture and walking steps) and incrementally considered the grounded assumptions. We failed to obtain the theorized positive effect of approach (as compared to avoidance) on evaluations. Interestingly, further exploratory analyses on two studies conducted in Virtual Reality suggested that the more participants felt being present in the situation, the more the approach-avoidance ecological actions activated the corresponding neuropsychological systems. We discuss these emergent findings in light of grounded cognition and the notion of feeling of presence.




Nuel, I., Fayant, M. P., & Alexopoulos, T. (2019). “Science manipulates the things and lives in them”: Reconsidering approach-avoidance operationalization through a grounded cognition perspective. Frontiers in Psychology, 10(JUN). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01418

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