Saturday, November 5, 2011

Approach - Avoidance: deep traces of attitudes towards media devices and their contents

Why is it that interactive TV is not really a success whereas second screen applications seem to be doing OK? This question has puzzled me for a while and the answer is not an easy one, I think. In this post I will try to shed some light on an answer that only accounts for a very small proportion of the total findings. It just deals with cool and unconscious processes, things that get extra credit in my own view on things. This partial answer has to do with very deep behavioral processes: approach and avoidance. 
One could argue that these are the most basic processes of human and other beings. They deal with very general feelings and reactions based on positive and negative immediate affect in regard to an object, idea or behavior. What we are not aware of is that these very general processes are also embodied in our muscular system. When we encounter some object or person, we immediately develop an approach or avoidance attitude towards the object, but we also activate our muscles as if we prepare for a fight or flight reaction versus an embrace reaction. We are not aware of this, because this does not involve grotesque behaviors (little kids show these somewhat more readily). You will need electrodes to measure these muscle reactions. Moreover, this motor reaction also exists in the reversed direction. If people are lured into an approach behavior they will be more apt to develop positive attitudes towards the object they encounter at that time. Reversely, if you lure them into an avoidance behavior they will be more prone to develop negative attitudes.
Now, let’s go back to the interactive TV. What does one do with a TV remote control? Indeed. Point it away, towards the TV and press a button (or a few). These all involve avoidance behaviors. Now, move over to the second screen and other mobile additions to the TV experience. How does one use a smartphone or tablet PC in these situations? You hold them, you touch them while it is in your hands (often even sweeping your fingers in a true approach fashion). Based on the research of the bidirectionality of motor actions and attitudes, this thus implies that the relative preference for smartphone or tablet interactivity may stem from deep and unconscious traces of our basic approach/avoidance system.

[Want to read more? Take a look at the research, for instance, by Neumann, Förster, and Strack]

No comments:

Post a Comment