, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 33-38
Date: 25 May 2012

For which side the bell tolls: The laterality of approach-avoidance associative networks

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The two hemispheres of the brain appear to play different roles in emotion and/or motivation. A great deal of previous research has examined the valence hypothesis (left hemisphere = positive; right = negative), but an increasing body of work has supported the motivational hypothesis (left hemisphere = approach; right = avoidance) as an alternative. The present investigation (N = 117) sought to provide novel support for the latter perspective. Left versus right hemispheres were briefly activated by neutral lateralized auditory primes. Subsequently, participants categorized approach versus avoidance words as quickly and accurately as possible. Performance in the task revealed that approach-related thoughts were more accessible following left-hemispheric activation, whereas avoidance-related thoughts were more accessible following right-hemispheric activation. The present results are the first to examine such lateralized differences in accessible motivational thoughts, which may underlie more “downstream” manifestations of approach and avoidance motivation such as judgments, decision making, and behavior.