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  • Author: Matthew B. Pontifex x
  • Psychology and Behavior in Sport/Exercise x
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Anthony G. Delli Paoli, Alan L. Smith and Matthew B. Pontifex

Social exclusion can produce harmful affective and cognitive responses that undermine healthy functioning. Physical activity is known to have acute affective and cognitive effects that are adaptive and therefore may mitigate these responses. The purpose of this study was to assess walking as a strategy to reduce the effects of social exclusion on affect and working memory performance. Healthy female college students (N = 96, M age = 19.2 ± 0.8 years) were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions: (a) sedentary plus neutral feedback, (b) sedentary plus exclusion feedback, (c) walking plus neutral feedback, or (d) walking plus exclusion feedback. Pre- and postactivity and pre- and postfeedback measures of affect and working memory performance were recorded. Excluded participants had a significant negative shift in affect following feedback, p < .05. Those who were sedentary prior to exclusion had lower affect scores following exclusion than the walking plus exclusion and neutral feedback conditions, p < .05. There were no direct effects of walking or social exclusion on working memory. However, perceptions of being ignored predicted smaller improvements in working memory performance for participants who were sedentary prior to exclusion, p < .05. The findings suggest that walking prior to social exclusion may mitigate the affective response to social exclusion as well as social perceptions that can undermine working memory. More broadly, this work supports continued examination of physical activity as a potential strategy for helping individuals cope with negative social experiences.

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Neha Gothe, Matthew B. Pontifex, Charles Hillman and Edward McAuley


Despite an increase in the prevalence of yoga exercise, research focusing on the relationship between yoga exercise and cognition is limited. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of an acute yoga exercise session, relative to aerobic exercise, on cognitive performance.


A repeated measures design was employed where 30 female college-aged participants (Mean age = 20.07, SD = 1.95) completed 3 counterbalanced testing sessions: a yoga exercise session, an aerobic exercise session, and a baseline assessment. The flanker and n-back tasks were used to measure cognitive performance.


Results showed that cognitive performance after the yoga exercise bout was significantly superior (ie, shorter reaction times, increased accuracy) as compared with the aerobic and baseline conditions for both inhibition and working memory tasks. The aerobic and baseline performance was not significantly different, contradicting some of the previous findings in the acute aerobic exercise and cognition literature.


These findings are discussed relative to the need to explore the effects of other nontraditional modes of exercise such as yoga on cognition and the importance of time elapsed between the cessation of the exercise bout and the initiation of cognitive assessments in improving task performance.

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Jason R. Themanson, Nicole J. Bing, Brad E. Sheese and Matthew B. Pontifex

This study was designed to examine the influence of performance feedback on task performance and neural activity in expert and novice baseball players. Participants completed a video task to determine whether thrown pitches were balls or strikes while their neural activity was recorded. After each pitch, participants were given feedback on the accuracy of their choice. Results indicated that college players exhibited larger frontocentral positivity amplitudes compared with novices, regardless of feedback type. Furthermore, results showed that the feedback-related negativity was related to response accuracy following incorrect feedback for college players, with larger feedback-related negativity amplitude associated with greater response accuracy. This relationship is independent of any relations between overall task accuracy and either feedback-related negativity amplitude or response accuracy following incorrect feedback. These results indicate that the nature of neural activity during pitch feedback for college baseball players can inform and influence participants’ subsequent pitch-location performance.