Avoidance Motivation and Conservation of Energy

Emotion Review 5 (3):264-268 (2013)
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Compared to approach motivation, avoidance motivation evokes vigilance, attention to detail, systematic information processing, and the recruitment of cognitive resources. From a conservation of energy perspective it follows that people would be reluctant to engage in the kind of effortful cognitive processing evoked by avoidance motivation, unless the benefits of expending this energy outweigh the costs. We put forward three empirically testable propositions concerning approach and avoidance motivation, investment of energy, and the consequences of such investments. Specifically, we propose that compared to approach-motivated people, avoidance-motivated people (a) carefully select situations in which they exert such cognitive effort, (b) only perform well in the absence of distracters that occupy cognitive resources, and (c) become depleted after exerting such cognitive effort



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Andy Elliot
University of Rochester