Effective Disengagement: Insecure People Are More Likely to Disengage From an Ongoing Task and Take Effective Action When Facing Danger

Tsachi Ein-Dor, Adi Perry-Paldi, Jenna Merrin, Yaniv Efrati, Gilad Hirschberger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: People believe that they can respond effectively to threats, but actually they experience difficulties in disengaging from ongoing tasks and shifting their attention to life-threatening events. We contend that this tendency is especially true for secure people with respect to their worldview and perception of others and not for insecure individuals. Method: In Study 1 (N = 290), we examined individuals' reactions to various threat scenarios. In Study 2 (N = 65), we examined these reactions using a behavioral design high in ecological validity. In Study 3 (N = 78), we examined group-level benefits for the actions of insecure individuals by manipulating asocial behavior in response to an emergency. Results: Study 1 indicated that anxiously attached individuals stayed away from threats and sought help; avoidant people tended to take action by either assessing the risk of the event and/or enacting an asocial action such as fight or flight. Study 2 added ecological validity to these findings, and Study 3 showed that priming asocial behavior responses promoted actions that increased group members' chances of survival. Conclusion: Results validate the central tenets of social defense theory and indicate that actions that are deemed asocial may paradoxically promote the survival of individuals and groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-246
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality
Volume86
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords

  • Fear
  • anxiety
  • attachment
  • defensive reactions

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