This study examined whether approach-avoidance related behaviour elicited by facial affect is moderated by the presence of an observer-irrelevant trigger that may influence the observer's attributions of the actor's emotion. Participants were shown happy, disgusted, and neutral facial expressions. Half of these were presented with a plausible trigger of the expression (a drink). Approach-avoidance related behaviour was indexed explicitly through a questionnaire (measuring intentions) and implicitly through a manikin version of the affective Simon task (measuring automatic behavioural tendencies). In the absence of an observer-irrelevant trigger, participants expressed the intention to avoid disgusted and approach happy facial expressions. Participants also showed a stronger approach tendency towards happy than towards disgusted facial expressions. The presence of the observer-irrelevant trigger had a moderating effect, decreasing the intention to approach happy and to avoid disgusted expressions. The trigger had no moderating effect on the approach-avoidance tendencies. Thus the influence of an observer-irrelevant trigger appears to reflect more of a controlled than automatic process.
- Social cognition
- Static versus dynamic