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Scared stiff: The influence of anxiety on the perception of action capabilities

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2012
JournalCognition and Emotion
Journal number7
Volume26
Number of pages15
Pages1301-1315
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Influences on the perception of affordances (i.e., opportunities for actions) have been primarily studied by manipulating the functional morphology of the body. However, affordances are not just determined by the functional morphology of the perceiver, but also by the physiological state of the perceiver. States of anxiety have been shown to lead to marked changes in individuals' physiological state and their behaviour. To assess the influence of emotional state on affordance perception, the perception of action capabilities in near space was examined after participants completed an anxiety-provoking task. Anxiety was induced immediately prior to tasks that assessed participants' perceived reaching ability in Experiment 1, grasping ability in Experiment 2, and the ability to pass their hands through apertures in Experiment 3. Results indicated that those participants who experienced changes in anxiety underestimated their reaching, grasping, and passing ability compared to non-anxious participants. In other words, anxious participants were more conservative in their estimations of their action capabilities. These results suggest that anxiety influences the perception for affordances in near space and are consistent with the notion that anxiety induces withdrawal behaviours.