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Too close for comfort: Stimulus valence moderates the influence of motivational orientation on distance perception.



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Krpan, Dario 


The relationship between approach and avoidance motivational orientations and valenced stimuli has previously been discussed in relation to physical distance. However, it has remained unclear whether approach and avoidance can actually change how people perceive the physical distance to valenced stimuli. Drawing on research on motivational orientation and valence as well as the motivated perception account, we predicted that valenced stimuli incompatible with motivational orientation would be perceived as closer than compatible stimuli because they motivate the goal of resolving the inconsistency arising from discrepant affective information. This prediction was supported in a series of 4 experiments. Findings were consistent across different manipulations of motivational orientation, including motor movements (Experiments 1 and 2) and cognitive procedures (Experiments 3 and 4), and across different types of stimuli, including abstract words (Experiments 1, 2, and 4) and photos of concrete objects (Experiment 3). Experiment 4 further investigated the mechanism behind the influence of incompatibility versus compatibility between motivational orientation and valence on distance perception. The findings showed that, relative to compatibility, incompatibility resulted in participants solving more anagrams, presumably because the goal-related motivational state gave rise to a general state of activation. Furthermore, perceptual estimates were correlated with the activity of the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) and the activity of the Behavioral Activation System (BAS) relative to the BIS, further suggesting that goal-related motivation may be associated with perception. Overall, the present research adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that visual perception is shaped by motivational considerations.



Adult, Distance Perception, Emotions, Female, Humans, Male, Motivation, Young Adult

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J Pers Soc Psychol

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American Psychological Association (APA)