Literature on approach-avoidance behaviours
December 4, 2019 6:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for scholarly articles & other info on a specific phenomenon which might be described as approach-avoidance behaviour (or maybe not - this is where Google took me!) Can you help?

I tried to google this but am making no headway, in part because I am not sure how to look for info/ literature on this phenomenon.

What I mean is situations where you are drawn towards something negative (which I take to be the 'approach' part) but also repulsed by that very thing AS WELL AS everything associated with it. For example, I might drill down to get to the gory bottom of a nasty situation, but then resent the person who helped me figure it out. Or I might be an avid reader of bad news (or Metafilter!), but then avoid products advertised next to that article since they are tainted by association (even though I actively engaged with the article!), or I might resent the journal/ newspaper/ site that carries the article etc.

Grateful for any ideas on how to look for scholarly articles on how negative associations might be formed as part of this approach-avoid dynamic (if that is even a good way to think about it), any links to literature, or any other ideas for how to think about this.

posted by doggod to Human Relations (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this is what you have in mind, but in psychology (as I understand it), I learned of this as the reaction formation. Think of a conservative man who was explicitly hateful towards gay people... who, we later learn, was having sex with other men the whole time, or had a same-sex attraction. So the issue is that what repulses us might actually be something that is attractive to us, but we aren't comfortable with our attraction. It's a defense mechanism. Here's how the American Psychology Association explains it.

There's also the forbidden fruit effect, or the allure of the forbidden: that denied us instantly becomes more interesting.

In kink, there's also the allure of something specifically because it is taboo. So you might have been taught that it's illicit, and you're drawn to that.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:40 PM on December 4, 2019

Thanks a lot bluedaisy - I think what I'm after may be the exact opposite of that - I have a strong and explicit attraction to something, say, reading the news, but at the same time what I am reading has a negative impact on me, so everything associated with reading the news is tainted. For example, I might develop an aversion to popcorn because I only eat it when watching horror movies, or something like that. Even if I like horror movies and actively seek them out.
posted by doggod at 1:45 PM on December 4, 2019

I have some suggested search terms for you.

I'm going to apologize upfront because I will go into detail about websites you can use to search for this info and how to use them but this might be overkill and way too much info - so if it's of use to you, yeah; if not, skip it.

Anyway, the suggested concept. Mice are used in classical experiments for this. For example, a mouse might have something it loves (saccharine-laced water), but every time it steps in the part of the cage to get its preferred drink, a shock is delivered or something is put in the water that makes the animal sick. Subsequently, researchers study how the mouse avoids that area of the cage and/or avoids its preferred drink, along with how long until the behavior is extinguished or factors that apply to how the behavior may be modified. Now that is a simple explanation, but since some of these experiments are designed to get at the biological underpinnings (and that is where my interest lies), you can go deep deep deep into for example, look at particular receptors (NMDA) or the cellular pathways (calcium calmodulin and enzymes phosphorylated, nitric oxide synthase) or the parts of the brain (hypothalamus and amygdala if the animal is particularly anxious), etc. - if you want to go to the biological stuff and don't quite understand this or want more search terms, drop me an email I can blather on and on and on about this.

Anyway, so if the goal is just to look at the basic experiments: into google scholar (as in go into, drop the terms operant conditioning aversion. Immediately, you should get articles publications related to the classic mouse stuff or even humans. If you grab and open some of those papers, at the top of the paper and under the abstract should be related terms, which will allow you to go deeper in the direction you prefer (as in drop those words back into google scholar or pubmed). Also, go to the bottom of the first google scholar page and there should be suggested terminology for related searches and you might find something closer (or further away) from what you want.

The other place to drop your terms are into pubmed (drop those same search terms here ( into the search bar).

You should be able to find at least some published journal articles in their entirety via either source. Also, take a look at the similar articles in pub med or where it is cited in google scholar - because it will give you more articles and sometimes that will lead you closer to what you want like a general review article if that is what you want or need as an overview).

Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 3:29 PM on December 4, 2019

« Older Is there some way to hear our brook inside in...   |   books about new england Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments