Behavioral facilitation: a cognitive model of individual differences in approach motivation

Emotion. 2009 Feb;9(1):70-82. doi: 10.1037/a0014519.


Approach motivation consists of the active, engaged pursuit of one's goals. The purpose of the present three studies (N = 258) was to examine whether approach motivation could be cognitively modeled, thereby providing process-based insights into personality functioning. Behavioral facilitation was assessed in terms of faster (or facilitated) reaction time with practice. As hypothesized, such tendencies predicted higher levels of approach motivation, higher levels of positive affect, and lower levels of depressive symptoms and did so across cognitive, behavioral, self-reported, and peer-reported outcomes. Tendencies toward behavioral facilitation, on the other hand, did not correlate with self-reported traits (Study 1) and did not predict avoidance motivation or negative affect (all studies). The results indicate a systematic relationship between behavioral facilitation in cognitive tasks and approach motivation in daily life. Results are discussed in terms of the benefits of modeling the cognitive processes hypothesized to underlie individual differences motivation, affect, and depression.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Punishment
  • Reaction Time
  • Reward
  • Social Behavior*