Two studies investigated the role of dispositional social approach and avoidance motives (i.e., what people generally desire and fear in social relationships) for the decision to participate in a speed-dating event. In a sample of N = 205 college students (Study 1), approach motives were positively and avoidance motives negatively associated with the decision to participate in a speed-dating event. Focusing on the underlying processes, Study 2 (N = 153) showed that approach and avoidance motives were differentially associated with attributions of acceptance and rejection experienced in a previous speed-dating scenario. The higher participants’ approach motives were, the more they attributed acceptance to internal, stable, and global causes. Conversely, the higher participants’ avoidance motives were, the more they attributed rejection to internal, stable, and global causes. Attributions, in turn, predicted expectations for an upcoming speed-dating event, and positive expectations positively predicted decision for participating in the speed-dating event. Thus, what people generally desire and fear in social relationships influence relationship initiation through differential attributions of previous social success and failure and thereby expectations for the upcoming social events.
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Note that it is not the avoidance of social relationships per se that is associated with social avoidance motivation. Similarly, it is not the approach of social relationships per se that is associated with social approach motivation. Both motivations can potentially lead to approach or avoidance social behavior (for example, social approach motivation––operationalized as high self-esteem––leads to approach behavior in situations high on social risk, whereas social avoidance motivation––operationalized as low self-esteem––leads to approach behavior in situations low on social risk; Stinson et al. 2014). The difference between the motivations is the focus on the presence or absence of positive social outcomes vs. the presence or absence of negative social outcomes, respectively (e.g., Gable and Berkmann 2008).
Results of analyses with and without the exclusion of these participants did not differ.
As more females than males participated in the study, we explored whether males and females differed in the study variables. There was no significant sex difference in the variables of interest, including approach and avoidance motives, the three dimensions of attributions (internality, stability, and globality), positive and negative expectations (ps > 0.07), and frequency of participation (χ2 = 3.58, p = 0.06). We further examined whether sex moderated the relationships among the variable of interest. Since the sample of male participants was too small for structural equation modeling, we examined the moderation effects of sex with several simple regression analyses. The results showed that sex did not significantly moderate the effects of approach and avoidance social motives on attributions as whole (ps > 0.11), the effects of approach motives, avoidance motives, and attributions on positive expectations (ps > 0.11), or the effects of expectations on speed-dating participation (ps > 0.65). The only exception was that sex significantly moderated the effect of approach motives on negative expectations (β = 0.32, t = 2.17, p = 0.03, size of the moderation effect Cohen’s f2 = 0.03, which is small according to Cohen’s rules of thumb), that is, approach motives more negatively predicted negative expectations in male than in female participants. Taken together, the results indicate that sex did not impact the variables of interest or the relationships among these variables. We thus pooled the data of different sexes together for the analyses.
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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). Data of Study 1 were collected by Angela Ruckstuhl in the context of her master thesis.
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Nikitin, J., Gong, X., Schoch, S. et al. Social motives, attributions and expectations as predictors of the decision to participate in a speed-dating event. Motiv Emot 43, 610–624 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-019-09762-0
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