How we walk affects what we remember
UW/H Prof. Dr. Johannes Michalak and Canadian colleagues explored correlation between gait and emotional memory.
To sum up the study: people slouching along with sagging shoulders tend to remember negative things while those with a cheerful posture and gait rather remember positive things. Prof. Dr. Johannes Michalak, Witten/Herdecke University, and colleagues from the Canadian Queen’s University have now published their findings.
Michalak, psychologist at Witten/Herdecke University, on the research approach: “As documented in many studies, physical exercise such as walking, running and hiking is effective against depression. We wanted to find out whether the type of gait also influences depression related processes.” Differences in gait between depressive persons and others are known from earlier studies. In the new study the researchers changed gait patterns of test persons (39 students) so that their gait was either more cheerful or more depressed than normally. Subjects were then offered words with positive (courageous, attractive) or negative connotations (boring, stupid) and asked whether these words described them. An unannounced memory test was performed after eight minutes. Test persons with the assignment to walk as if depressed remembered more negative words (a pattern frequently discovered in depressed patients) while those who were asked to show a cheerful gait recalled more positive words.
According to Prof. Michalak, study findings substantiate the assumption that the way we move affects the way we process positive or negative information. There is a correlation between body – in this case the gait – and mind – here the way to remember information. Such results might be used to develop therapies for depressive patients that use changes in physical processes.