Frontal asymmetry and motivational systems: does right frontal asymmetry underlie avoidance or motivational control?
Decades of theory and research have proposed a model of frontal asymmetrical cortical activity linking approach motivation and avoidance motivation to the left and right prefrontal cortices, respectively. However, more recent work has questioned the link between right frontal asymmetry and avoidance motivation, asserting instead that motivational control may be more closely related to right frontal asymmetry. The current study aimed to experimentally manipulate pure avoidance motivation and approach-avoidance conflicts in order to examine which evokes greater relative right frontal activation. Study 1 used a negative affective picture viewing paradigm with reward and non-reward trials. No differences were found with frontal asymmetry, but behavioral results suggested that approach-avoidance conflicts were successfully manipulated. Right frontal asymmetry related to behavioral outcomes of higher motivational control. Study 2 used a risk-taking task with reward and neutral trials to contrast loss aversion with reward seeking. No significant differences were found with frontal asymmetry, but behavioral outcomes of control again were related to right frontal asymmetry. Implications of the results for models of motivational processes and frontal asymmetry are discussed.