Drawn to danger: trait anger predicts automatic approach behaviour to angry faces

Lotte Veenstra*, Iris K. Schneider, Brad J. Bushman, Sander L. Koole

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Most people automatically withdraw from socially threatening situations. However, people high in trait anger could be an exception to this rule, and may even display an eagerness to approach hostile situations. To test this hypothesis, we asked 118 participants to complete an approach-avoidance task, in which participants made approach or avoidance movements towards faces with an angry or happy expression, and a direct or averted eye gaze. As expected, higher trait anger predicted faster approach (than avoidance) movements towards angry faces. Crucially, this effect occurred only for angry faces with a direct eye gaze, presumably because they pose a specific social threat, in contrast to angry faces with an averted gaze. No parallel effects were observed for happy faces, indicating that the effects of trait anger were specific to hostile stimuli. These findings suggest that people high in trait anger may automatically approach hostile interaction partners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-771
Number of pages7
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2017


  • Approach-avoidance motivation
  • emotions
  • facial expressions
  • trait anger


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