Initiation of forward gait with lateral occurrence of emotional stimuli: general findings and relevance for pedestrians crossing roads

  • Caffier Delphine
  • Gillet Christophe
  • Heurley Loïc
  • Bourrelly Aurore
  • Barbier Franck
  • Naveteur Janick

  • Aging
  • Approach
  • Avoidance
  • Emotion
  • Gait initiation
  • Pedestrians


With reference to theoretical models regarding links between emotions and actions, the present study examined whether the lateral occurrence of an emotional stimulus influences spatial and temporal parameters of gait initiation in 18 younger and 18 older healthy adults. In order to simulate road-crossing hazard for pedestrians, slides of approaching cars were used and they were presented in counterbalanced order with threatening slides from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) and control slides of safe walking areas. Each slide was presented on the left side of the participant once the first step was initiated. The results evidenced medio-lateral shifts to the left for the first step (right foot) and to the right for the second step (left foot). These shifts were both modulated by the slide contents in such a way that the resulting distance between the screen and the foot (right or left) was larger with the IAPS and traffic slides than with the control slides. The slides did not affect the base of support, step length, step velocity and time of double support. Advancing age influenced the subjective impact of the slides and gait characteristics, but did not modulate medio-lateral shifts. The data extend evidence of fast, emotional modulation of stepping, with theoretical and applied consequences.