Physical posture: Could it have regulatory or feedback effects on motivation and emotion?

Abstract

Four studies were conducted in a laboratory setting to examine whether variations in physical posture can have a regulatory or feedback role affecting motivation and emotion. The results of the first study, which were replicated in the second study, revealed that subjects who had been temporarily placed in a slumped, depressed physical posture later appeared to develop helplessness more readily, as assessed by their lack of persistence in a standard learned helplessness task, than did subjects who had been placed in an expansive, upright posture; surprisingly, there were no differences in verbal reports. The third study established that physical posture was an important cue in observers' verbal reports of depression in another person. The fourth study further explored the role of posture in self-reports of emotion using another posture. The results indicated that subjects who were placed in a hunched, threatened physical posture verbally reported self-perceptions of greater stress than subjects who were placed in a relaxed position. The findings of these studies are interpreted in terms of self-perception theory. It is suggested that physical postures of the body are one of several types of cues that can affect emotional experience and behavior.

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Correspondence to John H. Riskind.

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The thanks of the authors are extended to Irving L. Janis, Myron Rothbart, and some previous anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on this article.

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Riskind, J.H., Gotay, C.C. Physical posture: Could it have regulatory or feedback effects on motivation and emotion?. Motiv Emot 6, 273–298 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992249

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Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Upright Posture
  • Emotional Experience
  • Feedback Effect
  • Verbal Report