Effective Reaction to Danger: Attachment
Insecurities Predict Behavioral Reactions
to an Experimentally Induced Threat Above
and Beyond General Personality Traits
Tsachi Ein-Dor1, Mario Mikulincer1, and Phillip R. Shaver2
People who score high on attachment anxiety or avoidance display poorer adjustment than secure individuals in various social, emotional, and behavioral domains. Yet it may be advantageous for groups to include insecure as well as secure members. The authors tested predictions from social defense theory concerning advantages to groups of including members with different attachment patterns. A total of 46 groups were unobtrusively observed in a threatening laboratory situation: The room gradually filled with smoke, apparently because of a malfunctioning computer. Attachment anxiety was associated with quicker detection of the danger and therefore with greater group effectiveness. Attachment-related avoidance was associated with speedier escape responses to the danger once it was detected and therefore with greater group safety. The results remained significant even when extraversion and neuroticism, two possible confounds, were statistically controlled. Implications of the findings for theory and research concerning group processes, threat detection, and individual differences in attachment are discussed.