Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 680–692 | Cite as

Why do(n’t) you like me? The role of social approach and avoidance motives in attributions following social acceptance and rejection

  • Simone SchochEmail author
  • Jana Nikitin
  • Alexandra M. Freund
Original Paper


The present research aimed at answering the question why people differ in their way of attributing experienced social acceptance and rejection. Using a motivational approach, two scenario studies (Study 1, N = 280; Study 2, N = 232) and one study using actual social interactions (Study 3, N = 128) supported the hypothesis that dispositional social approach motives are associated with attributions following social acceptance (β = .16–.23, p < .001) but not social rejection (β = −.03 to −.06, p > .13), whereas dispositional social avoidance motives are associated with attributions following social rejection (β = .23–.29, p < .001) but not social acceptance (β = −.02 to −.08, p > .07). These studies demonstrate that social approach and avoidance motives are differentially predictive in social situations with positive compared to negative outcomes. Moreover, social motives play an important role in people’s attributions following their experiences of social acceptance or rejection. Taken together, the three studies suggest that people’s explanations of social acceptance and rejection differ as a function of what they generally want and fear in social interactions.


Social motives Approach Avoidance Attribution Social interactions 



This research was supported by Grant 100014_126868/1 (Project “Social Approach and Avoidance Motivation—The Role of Age”) from the Swiss National Science Foundation (PIs: Jana Nikitin and Alexandra M. Freund). We thank the Life-Management team for helpful discussions of the work reported in this article, and Mirjam Dönni, Christian Gross, and Mahmoud Hemmo for their help with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simone Schoch
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Jana Nikitin
    • 1
  • Alexandra M. Freund
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.University Research Priority Program Dynamics of Healthy AgingUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Zurich University of Teacher EducationZurichSwitzerland

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