approach-avoidance conflict

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Ambivalence towards a goal that embodies both positive and negative characteristics, one of the three main types of conflict identified in 1931 by the Polish/German-born US psychologist Kurt Lewin (1890–1947), though he did not name any of the types. When a goal is simultaneously satisfying and threatening, pleasant and unpleasant, attractive and anxiety-arousing, people's behaviour tends to vacillate at a point near but not too near the goal. Further from the goal the tendency to approach predominates, nearer the goal the tendency to avoid predominates, and equilibrium occurs where the approach and avoidance functions cross. See also approach-approach conflict, avoidance-avoidance conflict, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern effect.

Subjects: Psychology.

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