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Emotional valence and contextual affordances flexibly shape approach-avoidance movements.

Saraiva, AC; Schüür, F; Bestmann, S; (2013) Emotional valence and contextual affordances flexibly shape approach-avoidance movements. Front Psychol , 4 , Article 933. 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00933. Green open access

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Abstract

Behavior is influenced by the emotional content-or valence-of stimuli in our environment. Positive stimuli facilitate approach, whereas negative stimuli facilitate defensive actions such as avoidance (flight) and attack (fight). Facilitation of approach or avoidance movements may also be influenced by whether it is the self that moves relative to a stimulus (self-reference) or the stimulus that moves relative to the self (object-reference), adding flexibility and context-dependence to behavior. Alternatively, facilitation of approach avoidance movements may happen in a pre-defined and muscle-specific way, whereby arm flexion is faster to approach positive (e.g., flexing the arm brings a stimulus closer) and arm extension faster to avoid negative stimuli (e.g., extending the arm moves the stimulus away). While this allows for relatively fast responses, it may compromise the flexibility offered by contextual influences. Here we asked under which conditions approach-avoidance actions are influenced by contextual factors (i.e., reference-frame). We manipulated the reference-frame in which actions occurred by asking participants to move a symbolic manikin (representing the self) toward or away from a positive or negative stimulus, and move a stimulus toward or away from the manikin. We also controlled for the type of movements used to approach or avoid in each reference. We show that the reference-frame influences approach-avoidance actions to emotional stimuli, but additionally we find muscle-specificity for negative stimuli in self-reference contexts. We speculate this muscle-specificity may be a fast and adaptive response to threatening stimuli. Our results confirm that approach-avoidance behavior is flexible and reference-frame dependent, but can be muscle-specific depending on the context and valence of the stimulus. Reference-frame and stimulus-evaluation are key factors in guiding approach-avoidance behavior toward emotional stimuli in our environment.

Type: Article
Title: Emotional valence and contextual affordances flexibly shape approach-avoidance movements.
Location: Switzerland
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00933
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00933
Language: English
Additional information: © 2013 Saraiva, Schüür and Bestmann. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. PMCID: PMC3861787
Keywords: affordances, common-coding, extension, fight-or-flight, flexion, pre-defined, reference-frame
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Clinical and Movement Neurosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Gatsby Computational Neurosci Unit
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1426018
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