Social Interaction BIS - BAS


When YOU FEEL Threatended...


 People strive for consistency and congruence, meaning that they seek a fit between the social environment in which they find themselves, their inner experience and their desires, and their behavior. We assume that three components are central here, namely a fit between the perceived situation (reality), one's own current motives, and expectations about what will happen in this situation (cognitive focus). If there is a conflict within or between these (two of these three) components, there is a discrepancy and the associated motivation to reduce this discrepancy (for an overview, see: Jonas & Mühlberger, 2017).


 A discrepancy between cognitive focus and reality is a violation of expectations, e.g. People expect to enjoy certain freedoms but experience their freedoms being restricted (for example, Sittenthaler, Steindl, & Jonas, 2015, Steindl, Jonas, Sittenthaler, Traut-Mattausch & Jonas, 2015)

A discrepancy between motives and reality arises when basic motives are not fulfilled in reality, e.g. People have the desire to get a trusted advice from a consultant, the consultant does not seem trustworthy, but only self-interested (Mackinger, Jonas, & Mühlberger, 2017) or employees want to meet their obligations, but are suddenly confronted with customer complaints (Traut-Mattausch , Wagner, Pollatos, & Jonas, 2015)

A discrepancy between motives and cognitive focus can arise when people without a real situation have the expectation that their motives can not be fulfilled, e.g. when people seek self-preservation, control, safety, or meaning, but are reminded of their own mortality, loss of control, insecurity, or futility (Agroskin, Jonas, Klackl, & Prentice, 2016).

 The perception of discrepancies and threats takes place on a personal level, that is, the same situation is not perceived by every individual as a discrepancy and thus as a threat, but circumstances such as the current cognitive focus, situational needs and available motives influence the perception of situations as threatening.


The perception of discrepancies often leads people into an uncomfortable state of inhibition (a so-called "fear-stiffness", which can be described by activation of the behavioral inhibition system, BIS), from which they can only be induced by motivational reorientation, such as e.g. Action orientation, come out again (describable by the Behavioral Approach System, BAS).

 These actions can be destructive but also constructive and become visible when people interact with each other. The Loop2Loop model describes that people in social interactions not only react to each other, but that these processes are mediated through motivational-affective and motivated cognitive processes.


Social interactions can be the source of discrepancies. People can then get into states of inhibition or defense spirals, or they can try to become capable of acting again through motivational reorientation. Social interactions can help to reduce discrepancies, as shown e.g. should happen in counseling processes.


The Loop 2 Loop Model of Social Interaction






According to the Loop2Loop model, we also assume discrepancies in our research on consulting processes. For example, a person experiences a discrepancy between a current motive and the perceived reality in their professional life. For example, she is unhappy in her current job because she would like to be more involved in her and her skills, but feels that she is only allowed to perform activities according to certain specifications. Her need is to find a job in which she can decide and contribute her skills. This discrepancy between motive and reality can create insecurity and anxiety (Behavioral Inhibition System, BIS), which creates a behavioral drive to reduce the discrepancy. However, when people do not know how to achieve this themselves, they often seek the help of counselors. Counselors can help to reduce the discrepancy and to help the client become able to act again, i. E. to constructively activate the Behavioral Approach System (BAS). In our research, we therefore address the following questions:

How can counseling processes and their effects be psychologically described? Which discrepancies can be reduced by the different consulting formats (coaching, training, supervision, mentoring, mediation)? What implications can be identified for designing the consulting processes?

CHANGES Processes AND JUSTICE IN THE CONTEXT OF the digital WORKlife revolution (Work 4.0) 


The question of how people can be opened up for ideas and suggestions for improvement is relevant both in the interaction between two persons, as well as on the organizational and societal level. Since change is always associated with mastering discrepancies, the question of how people can be supported in their ability to act is also relevant here:

  • When do we open up for new ideas?
  • When do we commit ourselves to new ideas?
  • What must be done in the social environment?

 The question of how to create acceptance is to be separated from the question of how people can be activated to engage themselves. Relevant influencing factors are justice (procedural and distributive), esteem, respect (interpersonal justice) and control (informational and procedural).



The future world of work is becoming increasingly networked, digital and flexible. Not only does this contribute to the emergence of new products and services, it also significantly changes existing ways of production, affecting organizational structures. Traditional values ​​change and new demands on work arise. On the one hand, there are opportunities in these changes, but on the other, there are also uncertainties. The whole society is called upon to shape framework conditions in this process and to negotiate interests in such a way that all those affected profit from the new developments. But how can one contribute to the fact that individual people feel well looked after with their individual needs, life situations and talents in future working environments? The organization of work in organizations is of particular importance. But given the increasing flexibility in organizations, can framework conditions be created which give a certain degree of security and stability? Can people still feel attached to companies when traditional structures increasingly dissolve and employees are exposed to permanent change?



Psychological research on organizational justice has shown in recent decades that people then have a greater willingness to embrace the unknown and feel less threatened by change when principles of justice are met. This research suggests that people retain a connection to their company even in changing corporate structures if the change is made fair and the new world of work is lived up to in a fair manner.



Work i supposed to fulfill key basic psychological needs, needs for competence (participation, advancement, control, understanding), belonging or identity (contact, confirmation or recognition in the community) and autonomy or dignity (realization of one's own values, enjoyment of work) , But how can the need for belonging to be met when people are confronted with new decision-making authorities, such as intelligent technical systems? What gives security in the rapid technological change and a sense of identity? What helps people cope with the permanent stresses that arise as a result of increasing fast pace, flexibility and unpredictability? Employee needs need to be reconciled with the business needs of companies - but how can that be? How can demands for the further development of employees be linked to their individual future prospects / wishes?



In our research, we try to show how the inclusion of principles of justice can contribute to a needs-based work is possible - because principles of justice change our view of options for action and design opportunities and help to discover new potential.


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