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Pandemic related changes in social interaction are associated with changes in automatic approach-avoidance behaviour

Henwood, Amanda, Rinck, Mike and Krpan, Dario ORCID: 0000-0002-3420-4672 (2023) Pandemic related changes in social interaction are associated with changes in automatic approach-avoidance behaviour. Scientific Reports, 13 (1). ISSN 2045-2322

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Identification Number: 10.1038/s41598-023-31447-5


People's natural tendencies to either approach or avoid different stimuli in their environment are considered fundamental motivators of human behaviour. There is a wealth of research exploring how changes in approach and avoidance motivational orientations impact behaviour with consequences for wellbeing. However, research has seldom explored this relationship in reverse. The COVID-19 pandemic offered a unique opportunity to explore whether widespread changes in social behaviour are associated with changes in automatic approach-avoidance tendencies over time. We gathered online survey data on people's adherence to 7 of the prescribed social restrictions set out by the UK government and people's automatic approach-avoidance tendencies in response to different stimuli (sad/happy faces and social scenes) at three time points during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reduced-overall-interaction (digital and in person) was found to be significantly associated with faster avoidance relative to approach of sad faces. The results suggest that automatic approach-avoidance tendencies may function to protect people against the typically negative experience of reduced social interaction, with important implications for understanding public resilience during times of crisis, and beyond.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 Crown
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2023 10:27
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2024 08:51

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