Kelley, Nicholas J (2015-08). Self-Control of Avoidance Motivation: Implications for Understanding Frontal Cortical Asymmetry. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • Self-control involves the inhibition of dominant response tendencies. Most research on self-control has examined the inhibition of approach-motivated tendencies, and previous research has found that right frontal cortical asymmetry facilitates the inhibition of approach-motivated behaviors. The current experiments tested the hypothesis that a manipulated increase in right frontal cortical asymmetry facilitates the inhibition of avoidance-motivated responses. In Experiment 1, participants used a joystick to pull neutral images toward and push threatening images away from the body and then received 15 minutes of transcranial direct current stimulation. Afterward participants pulled threatening images toward and pushed neutral images away from the body. This response required self-control insofar as pushing away (not pulling) threatening stimuli is the dominant response tendency. Stimulation to increase right frontal cortical asymmetry caused threats to be pulled toward the body faster. A second Experiment, using the same task as Experiment 1, directly compared the self-control of approach and avoidance impulses. Results revealed that stimulation to increase right frontal asymmetry facilitated the self-control of impulses regardless of their motivational direction, representing first evidence that inhibiting avoidance-motivated behaviors shares a common neural mechanism with inhibiting approach-related behaviors: right frontal cortical asymmetry.

publication date

  • August 2015