Psychology Magazine

Stepping Backwards Enhances Cognitive Control.

By Deric Bownds @DericBownds
From Koch et al., some interesting work on the role of body locomotion in the recruitment of control processes.:
In the most fundamental and literal sense, approach refers to decreasing, and avoidance to increasing, the physical distance between the self and the outside world. In our view, body locomotion most purely taps into this fundamental nature of approach and avoidance. In everyday life, individuals typically approach desired stimuli by stepping forward and avoid aversive stimuli by stepping backward
...The idea that body locomotion may trigger approach and avoidance orientations has, so far, not been tested...we expected that stepping backward would increase the recruitment of cognitive control relative to stepping forward. To test this prediction, we gauged cognitive functioning by means of a Stroop task immediately after a participant stepped in one direction. The Stroop task requires naming the color in which stimulus words are printed while ignoring their semantic meaning, which is actually processed more automatically than the color. Cognitive control is required to override the tendency to respond to the semantic meaning and instead respond to the color.
...our study showed that stepping backward significantly enhanced cognitive performance compared to stepping forward or sideways. Considering the effect size, backward locomotion appears to be a very powerful trigger to mobilize cognitive resources. Thus, whenever you encounter a difficult situation, stepping backward may boost your capability to deal with it effectively.

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