"Well, that's embarrassing! " gender differences in the effects of negative body-related self-conscious emotions on visuomotor adaptation


Heightened body awareness and self-conscious emotions can impair motor performance, possibly reflecting the allocation of cognitive resources to monitoring the body rather than to executing the task. However, little is known about the potential impact of body awareness and self-conscious emotions on motor adaptation and learning, and previous studies have not examined gender differences. The present study investigated the effects of manipulations designed to evoke body awareness and positive or negative self-conscious emotions on a visuomotor adaptation task. Potential gender differences were also explored. An online study was completed by 82 participants (55 females, 27 males; mean age 24 years), who were randomized to body-related pride (N=39) or body-related embarrassment (N=43) conditions. Participants completed a visuomotor adaptation task after: (i) completing a relived emotion task that primed either body-related pride or body-related embarrassment; and (ii) checking and rating their posture (body awareness). The visuomotor task involved using a mouse to move a cursor towards peripheral targets. After baseline trials, the mouse was rotated by 90° for 4 blocks of trials (motor adaptation phase). This was followed by immediate rotated and non-rotated post-tests and a 24-hour retention test. A significant interaction effect on movement time indicated that males moved more slowly than females during the adaptation phase in the embarrassment condition but no gender differences were found in the pride condition. No significant differences in error were found between conditions. The results indicate that motor adaptation may be differently affected by body awareness and negative self-conscious emotions in males and females.

Acknowledgments: This research was funded by a SSHRC grant. Thanks to Colin Paradis and Eden Kozma for assistance with data processing.