Approach and avoidance towards aggressive stimuli and its relation to reactive and proactive aggression

Jill Lobbestael, Janna Cousijn, Suzanne Brugman, Reinout W Wiers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This study assessed the association between indirectly measured behavioural approach- and avoidance-related tendencies on the one hand, and reactive versus proactive aggression on the other hand. Reactive aggression (i.e. the impulsive, anger-driven aggression expressed in response to threatening stimuli) was differentiated from proactive aggression (i.e. the more controlled aggression motivated towards obtaining specific goals). A mixed sample of 118 patients and healthy controls filled out a self-report measure to assess their degree of reactive and proactive aggression, and then performed an Approach Avoidance Task in which they were asked to pull or push a joystick in response to a format-feature of a series of pictures, irrespective of their contents. The pictorial stimuli used in this task included attack-related scenes and angry faces, along with neutral, positive and negative control stimuli. The results were controlled for the level of personality disorder pathology, gender, and age. The findings indicated that reactive but not proactive aggression was related to the relative behavioural tendency to approach attack-related scenes, along with positive stimuli. These findings reflect the hyper-reactivity of the approach-related reward system in reactive aggression, and further our knowledge into the distinct correlates and precursors of reactive and proactive aggression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-201
Number of pages6
JournalPsychiatry Research
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

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Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


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