Stress and Approach-Avoidance Tendencies

Responsible: Dipl.-Psych. Daniel Best

Automatic behavioral dispositions, such as approaching positively valenced and avoiding negatively valenced stimuli, serves  the satisfaction of primary needs (food, reproduction) and  the protection from danger (e.g. predators) (Neumann, 2003).  Such behavioral tendencies are particularly important during stress context because they allow the organism to increase the distance to the source of danger, or decrease the distance to signals of protection and safety.

Our aim is to explore the way stress and stress hormones (cortisol) may influence approach-avoidance tendencies. We will make use of different stressors such as the Cold Pressor Test (Schwabe, et al., 2008), „lower body negative pressure; LBNP“(a model for non-invasive blood loss) (Richter, et al., 2009) and pharmacological interventions (intravenously administered cortisol) (Schilling, et al., 2013; Strelzyk, et al., 2012). Approach-avoidance behavior will be assessed by 3D presentation techniques and collecting behavioral as well as peripheral physiological measures. In the future it is planned to use EEG or fMRT to investigate the central processes that are associated with the effect of stress on approach-avoidance behavior.