An investigation into approach/avoid responses in confabulatory patients.

Lead Research Organisation: Bangor University
Department Name: Sch of Psychology


Crucial to survival is the ability to detect threatening and desirable stimuli and to respond appropriately. Our brains include specialised structures that rapidly identify the emotional significance of environmental information and prepare us for fight or flight, approach or avoidance. Usually people are faster to approach pleasant and avoid unpleasant items, than vice versa. But some interesting results have been produced from a patient with right frontal lobe damage who has a history of confabulation (false beliefs). His performance reveals a complete lack of an avoid response for unpleasant items, and an exaggerated approach response for pleasant items. This suggests that the frontal lobes are important for the mechanism linking evaluation with approach-avoid behaviour. In particular it suggests that an imbalance in approach and avoid dynamics may lead to confabulations, and the unchecked pursuit of positive outcomes. The balance between approach and avoid systems is likely to be critical for effective and socially acceptable behaviour. Understanding the neuropsychological mechanisms underlying approach and avoid behaviours could therefore offer crucial, as yet unexplored, insights for a range of psychological disorders.


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