Appetitive and Aversive Systems

Researchers from diverse areas of psychology (such as motivation, personality, and emotion) have recognized two distinct systems in human psychological functioning:  an appetitive system and an aversive system.  Despite the fact that appetition and aversion have been called by several different names, such as approach—avoidance, positive—negative, and discrepancy-reducing—discrepancy-enlarging, evidence from these myriad sources suggests that there is one system that organizes the individual’s response to rewarding or appetitive stimuli and another system that organizes the individual’s response to punishing or aversive stimuli.  Separate functional systems suggest that a.) appetitive and aversive systems are activated by different stimuli in the environment; b.) appetitive and aversive systems may work through different processes; and c.) appetitive and aversive processes are likely to be associated with different outcomes.  My research focuses on investigating appetition and aversion in daily life, social interactions, and close personal relationships.

Appetitive and Aversive Social Motives and Goals

I am interested in investigating how appetitive social motives and goals, such as need for affiliation and approach social goals, differ from aversive social motives and goals, such as fear of rejection and avoidance social goals.  For example, in the achievement setting, avoidance goals and fear of failure motives are associated with less effective classroom strategies and poor task performance.  I am interested in the social strategies and social outcomes associated with appetitive and aversive social motives and approach and avoidance social goals.

Appetitive Relationship Processes

The lion’s share of research on close relationships focuses on how couples’ handle negatives, such as conflict, each other’s negative affect, and negative events.  Undoubtedly, processes like negative affect reciprocity, conflict management, and social support are important.  However, I am interested in the positive, appetitive processes in close personal relationships..  For example, I am interested in capitalization—how people react to their partner’s positive events and good fortune—the emotions of gratitude and awe, and creativity and humor in relationships.

Appetition and Aversion in Close Relationships

Is a “good marriage” defined by the absence of negatives, such as conflicts?  Or, is the presence of positives, such as intimacy and growth, also important to the maintenance and enhancement of a marriage?  I am developing a model of close relationships that includes both the presence (or absence) of positive relationship qualities and the presence (or absence) of negative relationship qualities.

Within-person and between-person research

My research focuses on the interplay of nomothetic and idiographic methods, such as studies that involve survey measures, daily experience components, reported events and self-generated personal goals.  The information gained from within-person (idiographic) research complements and clarifies results from between-person research and is critical to theory development and refinement.  I am interested in continuing to explore innovative research methods and statistical approaches that facilitate the examining of psychological phenomena at the within-and between-persons levels.



Vinnie Wu's portrait

Vinnie Wu

My research investigates how individuals' approach and avoidance motivational orientations may influence their emotions and the quality of their interactions. I am also interested in how emotions are regulated in interpersonal and/or intergroup contexts.