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Anxiety & Inhibition Affect Walking Direction of People

Anxiety pervades the human body and soul beyond what we would think. A new study argues it causes people to walk in a leftward direction because of its effect of increased activity in the right side of the brain. The findings are published in the journal Cognition.


For the first time, the activation of the two hemispheres of the brain has been linked with lateral shifts in the walking trajectories of people suffering from anxiety. Led by Dr Mario Weick from the School of Psychology of the University of Kent, a team of researchers aimed at understanding the propensity of some individuals to give attention in an unequal manner across space.

The experiment: Observing walking direction

Blindfolded participants were to walk in a straight line across a room. They were to reach a target that they had seen in advance.

The results show that those who displayed anxiety or inhibition would tend to walk to the left. This implies the right hemisphere of the brain is undergoing a greater activation.

The two brain hemispheres were thus demonstrated to be linked with different motivational systems.

Inhibition has been associated with activation in the right side of the brain for the first time.

Applying the results

The study might help in treating unilateral neglect which is defined as a condition characterised by a lack of consciousness of one side of space. Individuals who display right-side neglect might benefit from techniques to reduce anxiety.


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