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© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York. People prefer curved and symmetrical shapes to their angular and asymmetrical counterparts. While it is known that stimulus valence is central to approach and avoidance motivation, the exact nature of the relationship between curvature/symmetry and approach/avoidance motivation still needs to be clarified. Experiment 1 was designed to investigate whether simple shapes are associated with approach and avoidance words. Participants found it easier to match more symmetrical shapes with approach words. In Experiment 2, symmetry was differentially associated with approach words and was rated significantly higher on the approach dimension than asymmetry. Next, we assessed whether object valence and object curvature (Experiment 3) or symmetry (Experiment 4) would lead to different associations to approach and avoidance words. Only object valence had a significant influence on participants’ ratings, with the positively-valenced objects being more closely associated with approach words than their negatively-valenced counterparts. These results highlight the complex relation between visual properties of objects, their valence, and appetitive and aversive categories.

Original publication




Journal article


Motivation and Emotion

Publication Date





689 - 702