Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 237, Issue 4, pp 989–994 | Cite as

Gravity modulates behaviour control strategy

  • Maria Gallagher
  • Iqra Arshad
  • Elisa Raffaella FerrèEmail author
Research Article


Human behaviour is a trade-off between exploitation of familiar resources and exploration of new ones. In a challenging environment—such as outer space—making the correct decision is vital. On Earth, gravity is always there, and is an important reference for behaviour. Thus, altered gravitational signals may affect behaviour control strategies. Here, we investigated whether changing the body’s orientation to the gravitational vector would modulate the balance between routine and novel behaviour. Participants completed a random number generation task while upright or supine. We found decreased randomness when participants were supine. In particular, the degree of equiprobability of pairs of consecutive responses was reduced in the supine orientation. Online gravitational signals may shape the balance between exploitation and exploration, in favour of more stereotyped and routine responses.


Gravity Vestibular system Exploration Exploitation Cognition Behaviour control 



This work was supported by an Experimental Psychology Society UK grant and a European Low Gravity Association Research (ELGRA) Prize to E.R.F. M.G. is further supported by an ESRC-DTC studentship.

Author contributions

IA performed experiments; MG, IA and ERF analysed data; ERF conceived and designed the research; ERF, MG and IA interpreted the results of the experiments; ERF and MG edited and revised the manuscript; all authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Royal HollowayUniversity of LondonEghamUK

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