British Journal of Social Psychology

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Volume 47 Issue 4 (December 2008), Pages 557-780

Proximity seeking in adult attachment: Examining the role of automatic approach–avoidance tendencies (pages 557-573)

In two experiments, participants made symbolic approach and avoidance movements towards or away from attachment figure‐ and acquaintance‐related cues after being primed with a distressing or a non‐distressing context. Results showed that automatic approach responses towards the attachment figure were stronger in a distressing than in a non‐distressing context, regardless of whether the source of distress was attachment‐relevant or ‐irrelevant and regardless of one's attachment style. Individual differences in attachment anxiety and avoidance were associated with the predicted patterns of approach–avoidance tendencies: attachment anxiety heightened the tendency to approach the attachment Figure (Experiments 1 and 2), whereas attachment avoidance reduced this tendency (Experiment 2). Findings are discussed as providing first evidence on the role of automatic action tendencies in adult attachment.

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