This study examined how pleasant and unpleasant emotional states influence the biomechanical organization of both forward and backward step initiation (SI). Participants (N = 31) purposely took a single step toward or away from a screen following the presentation of a pleasant (erotic), unpleasant (mutilation) or neutral (objects and landscapes) image. The main results showed that the reaction time for forward SI was shortened when individuals were exposed to pleasant pictures as compared with unpleasant pictures. The anticipatory whole-body center-ofmass velocity associated with backward SI, as well as the peak of center-of-mass velocity associated with forward SI both reached lower values when individuals were exposed to pleasant pictures as compared with neutral pictures. In contrast, unpleasant pictures did not significantly induce any change in the forward or backward SI parameters. Overall, these results obtained for whole-body approach/avoidance-like behaviors provided mitigated support for the so-called “motivational direction hypothesis.”
The authors are with UFR STAPS, University of Orsay Paris, Paris, France.