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PLoS One. 2014 Jul 2;9(7):e99902. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099902. eCollection 2014.

Both physical exercise and progressive muscle relaxation reduce the facing-the-viewer bias in biological motion perception.

Author information

1
Queen's University, Department of Psychology, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
2
Queen's University, Department of Psychology, Kingston, Ontario, Canada; Queen's University, School of Computing, Kingston, Ontario, Canada; Queen's University, Department of Biology, Kingston, Ontario, Canada; Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Abstract

Biological motion stimuli, such as orthographically projected stick figure walkers, are ambiguous about their orientation in depth. The projection of a stick figure walker oriented towards the viewer, therefore, is the same as its projection when oriented away. Even though such figures are depth-ambiguous, however, observers tend to interpret them as facing towards them more often than facing away. Some have speculated that this facing-the-viewer bias may exist for sociobiological reasons: Mistaking another human as retreating when they are actually approaching could have more severe consequences than the opposite error. Implied in this hypothesis is that the facing-towards percept of biological motion stimuli is potentially more threatening. Measures of anxiety and the facing-the-viewer bias should therefore be related, as researchers have consistently found that anxious individuals display an attentional bias towards more threatening stimuli. The goal of this study was to assess whether physical exercise (Experiment 1) or an anxiety induction/reduction task (Experiment 2) would significantly affect facing-the-viewer biases. We hypothesized that both physical exercise and progressive muscle relaxation would decrease facing-the-viewer biases for full stick figure walkers, but not for bottom- or top-half-only human stimuli, as these carry less sociobiological relevance. On the other hand, we expected that the anxiety induction task (Experiment 2) would increase facing-the-viewer biases for full stick figure walkers only. In both experiments, participants completed anxiety questionnaires, exercised on a treadmill (Experiment 1) or performed an anxiety induction/reduction task (Experiment 2), and then immediately completed a perceptual task that allowed us to assess their facing-the-viewer bias. As hypothesized, we found that physical exercise and progressive muscle relaxation reduced facing-the-viewer biases for full stick figure walkers only. Our results provide further support that the facing-the-viewer bias for biological motion stimuli is related to the sociobiological relevance of such stimuli.

PMID:
24987956
PMCID:
PMC4079562
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0099902
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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