MODULE 1

Conflict

In this unit we consider stressful situations (conflict, frustration, and anxiety) and their biological and psychological effects.

This module is concerned with conflict within the individual. We will consider two types of conflict situations: conflicts that occur when a person has two desirable goals and those that occur when he must choose one of two undesirable goals. We will also consider what happens when a goal has both desirable and undesirable aspects.

As vou read the text, try to answer the following questions. .

Conflict within an individual is the simultaneous arousal of two or more incompatible motives. To understand the dynamics of conflict, psychologists have tried to answer one key question: "What factors make some choices easy and others difficult?"

Smith and Guthrie (1921 ) made a distinction between conflict situations that produce a stable equilibrium and those that produce an unstable equilibrium. Easily resolved conflicts are said to be in unstable equilibrium: as soon as the person moves toward one of the alternatives, the conflict disappears. When a conflict is not easily resolved, incompatible responses continue to balance each other. The person cannot accept either alternative. Since he cannot choose, he remains in conflict. The conflict is in stable equilibrium.

APPROACH-APPROACH CONFLICT

Approach-approach conflicts are unstable

Lewin (1935) identified three patterns of conflict: approach-approach, avoidance-avoidance, and approach-avoidance. In the first of these, approach-approach, the individual is faced with the necessity of making a choice between two (or more) desirable goals. Since both goals are desirable, this is the least stressful situation. "Shall I fly or take a boat to Europe?" might be easily resolved if both means of travel are seen as pleasurable. Such situations produce a state of unstable equilibrium. As soon as one goal is approached, its desirability increases and completely dominates, thereby making the choice easy. The choice becomes easier the closer one moves toward either goal. The approach-approach conflict situation: an unstable equilibrium A step toward either goal is sufficient to resolve the conflict by making that goal seem more attractive than the other.

AVOIDANCE-AVOIDANCE CONFLICT

The other two types of conflict produce stable equilibrium. In the avoidance-avoidance conflict, the individual is faced with two goals, both of which are negative, or repellent. He is "between the rock and the hard place." In that very position, for example, is the child who is faced with "Either you do your homework or you go to bed without supper." Since the equilibrium is a stable one, the child is likely to remain balanced between the two negatives as long as possible. The nearer the individual comes to a goal he wishes to avoid (a repelling one), the stronger is his tendency to avoid it.

The avoidance-avoidance conflict situation is a stable equilibrium in which a movement away from one goal is countered by an increase in the repellence of the other goal so that the individual returns to the point where he was at the beginning of the conflict .

APPROACH-AVOIDANCE CONFLICT

Approach-avoidance conflicts involve only one goal

The third conflict pattern is approach-avoidance. In this situation, the individual is both attracted and repelled by the same goal. The same goal has qualities that make the individual want to approach it and other qualities that make him want to avoid it. The timid man who wishes to propose to his girl friend fears rejection (the quality he wishes to avoid) and hopes for acceptance (the quality he wishes to approach). Hence he is in conflict about a single goal. If you are tempted to eat a certain food but know from experience that it gives you indigestion, you experience an approach- avoidance conflict. Approach-avoidance, like the avoidance-avoidance conflict situation, produces stable equilibrium.

The approach-avoidance conflict situation is a stable equilibrium. As the individual nears the goal , the strength of avoidance increases more rapidly than that of approach, pushing him from the goal ; at this point the strength of approach is higher than the avoidance tendency. In this manner the person is brought back to the original point of equilibrium .

DOUBLE APPROACH-AVOIDANCE

In real life, the individual frequently is faced with having to choose between two (or more) goals, each of which has both attracting and repelling aspects. Since the tendency is to approach and avoid each of the goals, this pattern is called double approach-avoidance. Choosing a house in the country means fresh air, room to live, peace and quiet. It also means many hours of commuting to work in heavy traffic and long distances from city amenities and cultural events. Choosing to live in the city will likewise present both the problems and the advantages of city life. This is a common example of the double approach-avoidance situation.

GRADIENTS OF APPROACH AND AVOIDANCE

The attractiveness or repulsiveness of a goal increases as one gets closer to it. Psychologists have measured the strength of this tendency directly in laboratory experiments with rats.

Brown (1948) measured the strength of a rat's pull toward a food goal and also the strength of pull away from the place where it had received a shock. This was done by placing rats in a harness attached to a leash and measuring the force of pull against a spring.

Equilibrium may be reached at different points on the gradient of approach and avoidance

Note that the approach gradient is flat and the avoidance gradient is steep At the point where the two gradients cross, the tendencies are equal. Miller's experiments (1948) were along similar lines. Rats trained to run along an alley toward a food box were given a shock while eating. On the next trial the animals ran toward the box, but stopped short of it. Approach and avoidance tendencies were equal at this point. Miller was able to change the point at which the rat would stop, by altering the intensity of hunger or shock.

The gradient, or steepness, of the approach curves on the graphs is of particular interest. Figure 5 shows a typical approach gradient. Although the gradient of approach rises as it gets nearer the goal it does not rise very fast. Hence, it is not very steep.

Figure 5. A typical approach gradient

Figure 6. A typical avoidance gradient

On the other hand, the gradient of avoidance is much higher near the goal; this gradient is extremely steep. Figure 6 shows a typical avoidance gradient.

Figure 5 and 6 show that the strength of avoidance increases more rapidly as the goal is neared than does that of approach. In an approach-avoidance conflict situation, then, there is a point (somewhat predictable in rats) where, as the goal is approached, the relative strengths of approach and avoidance are about equal.

Figure 7. The point of equilibrium

In Figure 7 "X" is the point where action stops. It is the point of equilibrium. Only the increase or decrease in the attractiveness of the goals will resolve the conflict.


MODULE 1
PROGRESS CHECK 1

Now test yourself without looking back.

1. In which of the situations below may conflict occur?
a. An individual feels both alternatives are undesirable but has to choose one.
b. Two desirable alternatives are incompatible.
c. An individual has only one goal with both desirable and unpleasant aspects to consider, and the alternatives of the conflict are either to accept or reject the goal.
d. An individual can choose both alternatives.

2. Match the kinds of conflict situations with their corresponding definitions.
1 ) Approach-approach________________________________
2) Avoidance-avoidance______________________
3) Double approach-avoidance ____________________
4) Approach-avoidance______________________

a. An individual has the alternative of accepting or rejecting one goal that has both desirable and undesirable aspects.
b. Both alternatives are incompatible and desirable.
c. Both incompatible alternatives have desirable and undesirable aspects.
d. Alternatives are compatible and desirable.
e. Alternatives are incompatible and both are undesirable.

3. Match the kinds of conflict situations with the examples illustrating each.

1 ) Approach-approach______________

2) Avoidance-avoidance__________________

3) Approach-avoidance_________________
4) Double approach-avoidance ____________________

a. Joe has one elective course to choose. He wants to take a specific course, but at the time it is to be given a course in English literature is being offered, taught by a professor who was highly recommended.

b. Joe has to take a course in mathematics because one is required. He can choose a survey course that he considers dull or an algebra course that he anticipates will be quite difficult.

c. Joe wishes to take his girl friend out to dinner and to see a movie. He decides to do both.

d. Joe wants to take the abnormal psychology course next semester but it is to be taught by a professor he regards as obnoxious.

e. Joe is required to take a course in physics or biology. He feels physics is more interesting, but he is afraid his poor background in mathematics would keep him from doing well in it. Biology is dull, but he could manage it.

4. General Eisenhower was faced with the following problem during World War 11.
The objective: attack at Normandy. If the attack were to have the element of surprise, the forces had to be launched immediately, even though fog might impede the landings. Alternatively, the landing could be postponed for a week to await clearer weather, but if this were done it would mean landing during a period of characteristic turbulence in the Atlantic and this, too, would impede the attack.

What are the approach aspects of the alternatives in the above example?
a. Foggy weather, turbulent ocean
b. Surprise attack, clear weather
c. (neither)

5. What kind of conflict confronted General Eisenhower?
a. Approach-approach
b. Approach-avoidance
c. Double approach-avoidance
d. Avoidance-avoidance

6. In the graph shown here, the horizontal axis represents:

a. distance from the goal.
b. strength of the tendency.
c. time taken to avoid goal.
d. time taken to approach goal.

7. If the graph above depicted an approach-avoidance conflict:
a. the person would proceed all the way to the goal.
b. the person would proceed only as far as Point Q.
c. the person would proceed only as far as Point P.
d. (none of these)

8. In this graph, suppose the goal were taking a final exam. A student may be motivated both by the anticipation of a good grade and by the fear of failure.

Which is correct?

a. The dashed line represents the effect of fear of failure.
b. The dashed line represents the anticipation of a good -trade.
c. (neither)

9. Which is true of approach and avoidance tendencies?
a. Their strength is greater the farther one is from the goal.
b. The gradient of avoidance is steeper than the gradient of approach.
c. Negative alternatives are always stronger than positive alternatives.

10. Jim wants to have a tooth filled because he doesn't want his cavity to become larger, but he is afraid of dentists. He made a dental appointment for 2 p.m. At 1:45 p.m. he decides not to go. Which of the following governed his behavior?
a. Avoidance tendencies are stronger when at a greater distance from the goal.
b. The avoidance tendency was equal to the approach tendency some time before 1:45 p.m.
The approach tendency was eliminated at 1:45 p.m. (none of these)

ANSWER KEY


EXERCISES

An approach-approach conflict occurs when an individual wants to take a drama class on Tuesday and Thursday nights and also wants to attend chess club meetings on Thursday nights. Check the characteristics of an approach-approach conflict.
a. Two or more desirable goals
b. Incompatible goals
c. Compatible but desirable goals
_____________________________________4

An avoidance-avoidance conflict occurs when a student knows he must either write a report or perform an experiment, neither of which he wants to do. Check the characteristics of an avoidance- avoidance conflict.
a. One desirable and one undesirable goal
b. Two goals, both of which are undesirable
c. Two desirable, incompatible goals

_________________________________7

(Figure of an approach-approach conflict goes here)

This diagram shows the approach-approach conflict situation.
Check the statement below that explains the diagram.
a. The attractiveness of a goal decreases as it is approached.
b. As one approaches two incompatible goals, the decision becomes more difficult.
c. The attractiveness of a desirable goal increases as it is approached.
_____________________________________________1

The nearer an individual comes to a goal he wants to avoid, the stronger is his tendency to avoid it. This is why decisions are difficult to make in an:
a. approach-approach conflict situation.
b. avoidance-avoidance conflict situation.
c. (neither)
______________________________________________5

Write the types of conflict described by each statement.
a. The choices become more attractive as either goal is approached._________________________
b. The nearer an individual comes to a goal he wants and yet wishes to avoid, the stronger is his tendency to avoid it._____________________________
____________________________________________2

It is easiest to make a decision in a(n) ___________________conflict situation
______________________________________3

In an approach-avoidance conflict, the individual is both attracted and repelled by the same goal. As he approaches the goal, he will be:
a. more strongly attracted to the desirable aspects.
b. more strongly repelled by the undesirable aspects.
c. able to make his decision easily.
______________________________________8

Match.

1 ) Approach-approach conflict_______
2) Avoidance- avoidance conflict_____
3) Approach-avoidance conflict _____
a. One goal
b. More than one goal
c. Easily resolved
____________________________________________ 6

ANSWERS

1. c
2. a. Approach-approach
b. Approach-avoidance
3. approach-approach
4. a, b
5. b
6.
1) b, c
2) b
3) a
7. b
8. a, b


A graph showing a typical approach-avoidance conflict would suggest which of the following is correct?
a. The greater the distance from the goal, the greater the tendency to avoid it.
b. As the tendency to avoid the goal increases, so does the tendency to approach it.
c. As the distance from a goal decreases, the tendency to avoid the goal increases more rapidly than the ency to approach it
d. (none of these)
___________________________________________3

Write the type of conflict after each of the following examples.
a. You hate your job and you don't want to go to work. However, you need the pay._________________________
b. Two great football games are on TV at the same time. You want to watch both. ______________________________
c. You want to see the view from a mountain top, but the only way to get there is to climb.______________________
______________________________________________2

NOW TAKE PROGRESS CHECK 2

1 b
2 a. Approach-avoidance
b. Approach-approach
c. Approach-avoidance
3 b, c
4 a


MODULE 1
PROGRESS CHECK 2

1. Conflict may occur when:
a. an individual is able to choose both alternatives.
b. both alternatives look undesirable to the individual, but he has to choose one.
c. the individual finds that two attractive alternatives in a situation are incompatible.
d. a person has to choose between two goals both of which are repelling.

2. Which of the following is true of approach and avoidance tendencies?
a. As one nears the goal, the avoidance tendencies fall very gradually.
b. Negative alternatives are always stronger than positive alternatives.
c. The gradient of avoidance is less steep than the gradient of approach.
d. (none of these)

3. Mr. Athey needs a raise because his wife is expecting a child. However, he is afraid to ask his boss, who is reputed to be an old skinflint. Nevertheless, he makes an appointment to see him at 2 p.m. At 1:45 he decides not to go and gives a valid-sounding excuse. Explain Mr. Athey's behavior by selecting the rule which governed his behavior.
a. Avoidance tendencies are stronger when at a greater distance from the goal.
b. The avoidance tendency was equal to the approach tendency some time before 1:45.
c. The approach tendencies were eliminated at 1:45.
d. (none of these)

4. You are trying to decide which of two jobs to take. Job A will provide higher pay but the hours will conflict with courses you wish to take. Job B will provide lower pay but the hours do not conflict with courses you wish to take. Which are the approach aspects of this situation?
a. Inconvenient hours, low pay
b. Convenient hours, high pay
c. Inconvenient hours, high pay
d. Convenient hours, low pay

5. The kind of conflict situation described in question 4 is:
a. double approach-avoidance.
b. approach-approach.
c. avoidance-avoidance.
d. approach-avoidance.

6. Match.

1 ) Approach-approach______________

2) Double approach-avoidance__________

3) Approach-avoidance__________

4) Avoidance-avoidance_____________

a. The conflict arising from having to choose between two unpleasant goals
b. The conflict arising when an individual has tendencies both to approach and to avoid the same goal object.
c. A conflict stemming from motives which have as their objective two desirable but incompatible goals. d. The conflict arising from having to choose between two goals, each of which has both attracting and repelling aspects

7. In a graph showing an approach-avoidance situation , the vertical axis represents:

a. strength of the tendency.
b. time taken to avoid the goal.
c. time taken to approach the goal.
d. distance from the goal.

8 and 9. Skip

10. Write the kind of conflict situations illustrated by each of the following.

a. Jenny is required to take a course in either history or government. She thinks the government course might have more practical application, but she is afraid that her poor background will keep her from doing well in it. She would enjoy history, but it has no application.

_______________________________

b. Jenny is also required to take one course in mathematics. She can choose a survey course that will be boring or an algebra course that will probably be quite difficult.

______________________________
c. Jenny wants to take a music theory course next semester, but the student evaluation guide rates the professor as unintelligent and ineffective.

_____________________________________
d. Joe has one elective course to choose. He wants to take a course in anthropology, but at the time it is to be given a course in sociology is being offered, taught by a famous professor.

_________________________________

ANSWER KEY

Unit 10 Table of Contents

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Oct. 27, 2005