Emotional expressions forecast approach-avoidance behavior

Reginald B. Adams, Nalini Ambady, C. Neil Macrae, Robert E. Kleck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

184 Scopus citations


The contention that basic behavioral intentions are forecasted by emotional expressions has received surprisingly little empirical support. We introduce a behavioral task that gauges the speed with which movement of angry and fearful faces (toward or away from an expressor's gaze) are accurately detected. In two studies we found that perceivers were faster to correctly detect approaching anger faces (i.e., faces that moved in the direction of their own gaze). The opposite, however, was not true for fear expressions. These findings offer evidence that, at least for anger displays, the basic behavioral intent to approach is strongly transmitted and at very low-levels of processing, even priming congruent behavioral responses in observers. The null results for fear faces may indicate that these signal a "freezing" response or behavioral inhibition rather than flight per se. The results of this work are discussed in relation to contemporary theories of emotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-188
Number of pages10
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Emotional expressions forecast approach-avoidance behavior'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this