Useful Notes on 4 Major Types of Conflicts (Motivational Conflict)

January 16, 2019 0 Comment

Some of the earliest theoretical analyses of conflict were by experimental psychologists who applied basic principles of learning and motivation to the subject. They treated conflict in terms of positive tendencies to approach certain goals and negative tendencies to avoid others.

They identified four major ways in which these tendencies could oppose one another and, thus, defined four major types of conflict.

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(i) Approach-approach.

(ii) Avoidance-avoidance.

(iii) Approach-avoidance.

(iv) Double approach-avoidance or multiple approach avoidance conflict.

(i) Approach-approach:

In this type of conflict a person is faced with two attractive alternatives, only one of which can be selected. There are two courses that you want to take, but they are scheduled for the same time. As this example suggests, approach-approach conflicts are usually easy to resolve. You choose one course and decide to take the other next semester. Approach- approach conflict become serious only if the choice of one alternative means the loss of an extremely attractive alternative.

(ii) Avoidance-avoidance Conflict:

A second type of conflict, avoidance-avoidance, involves two negative goals and is a fairly common experience. A boy must do his arithmetic homework which he dislikes or get a spanking. A student must spend the next two days studying for an examination or face the possibility of failure. A woman must work at a job she intensely dislikes or take the chance of losing her income. Such conflicts are capsuled in the saying “caught between the devil and deep blue sea”.

There are two types of behaviour that occurs in this type of conflict.

(i) Vacillation of behaviour and thought.

(ii) Desire to leave the conflict situation altogether.

Avoidance-avoidance conflict generates many intense emotions. We can all think of things we do not want to do but must do or face even less desirable alternatives.

(iii) Approach-avoidance Conflict:

The third type of conflict, approach-avoidance, is often the most difficult to resolve because, in this type of conflict, a person is both attracted and repelled by the same goal object. Because of the positive valence of the goal, the persons approach it; but as it is approached the negative valence becomes stronger.

If, at some point during the approach to the goal, its repellent aspects become stronger than its positive aspects, the person will stop before reaching the goal. Because the goal is not reached and the individual is frustrated.

As with avoidance-avoidance conflict, vaci­llation is common in approach-avoidance conflicts; people in these conflicts approach the goal until the negative valence becomes too strong, and then they back away from it. Often however, the negative valence is not repellent enough to stop the approach behaviour.

In such cases, people reach the goal, but much more slowly and hesitatingly than they would have without the negative valance; and until the goal is reached, there is frustration. Even after the goal is reached, an individual may feel uneasy because of the negative valence, attached to it. Whether a person is frustrated by reaching a goal slowly or by not reaching it at all, emotional reactions such as fear, anger, resentment commonly accompany approach-avoidance conflicts.

(iv) Double Approach Avoidance or Multiple Approach-Avoidance Conflicts:

Many of life’s major decisions involve multiple approach- avoidance conflicts, meaning that several goals with positive and negative valences are involved. Suppose a woman is engaged to be married; suppose, further, that the goal of marriage has a positive valence because she loves the man she will be marrying. Suppose, on the other hand that marriage is repellent to her because it will mean giving up an attractive offer of job in another city. With respect to her career, the woman is attracted to new job, but also repelled by the problems it will creates for her marriage.


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