On the automatic link between affect and tendencies to approach and avoid: Chen and Bargh (1999) revisited

Frontiers in Psychology 6:57614 (2015)
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Abstract

Within the literature on emotion and behavioral action, studies on approach-avoidance take up a prominent place. Several experimental paradigms feature successful conceptual replications but many original studies have not yet been replicated directly. We present such a direct replication attempt of two seminal experiments originally conducted by Chen and Bargh (1999). In their first experiment, participants affectively evaluated attitude objects by pulling or pushing a lever. Participants who had to pull the lever with positively valenced attitude objects and push the lever with negatively valenced attitude objects (i.e., congruent instruction) did so faster than participants who had to follow the reverse (i.e., incongruent) instruction. In Chen and Bargh's second experiment, the explicit evaluative instructions were absent and participants merely responded to the attitude objects by either always pushing or always pulling the lever. Similar results were obtained as in Experiment 1. Based on these findings, Chen and Bargh concluded that (1) attitude objects are evaluated automatically; and (2) attitude objects automatically trigger a behavioral tendency to approach or avoid. We attempted to replicate both experiments and failed to find the effects reported by Chen and Bargh as indicated by our pre-registered Bayesian data analyses; nevertheless, the evidence in favor of the null hypotheses was only anecdotal, and definitive conclusions await further study.

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