The Effects of Head Motion on Mood, Life Satisfaction, and Future Expectations

Abigail Douglas, The College of Wooster


The theory of embodied cognition suggests that the way in which people think is influenced by the way in which they move, and vice versa. This study investigates the effect of head motion in the form of vertical nodding movements and horizontal shaking movements on the perception of one's own life. It was hypothesized that whether a person nods (a positive, agreeing action) or shakes (a negative, disagreeing motion) will reflect in corresponding ways on his or her immediate mood, overall sense of life satisfaction, and expectations for the future according to the theories of congruent thought production and self-validation. To induce head motion, participants followed the path of a black circle (up and down, left and right, or unmoving) on a computer screen, keeping their noses aimed at it, for one minute. They were instructed to consider their lives in terms of where they've been, where they currently are, and where they see themselves in the future as they did so. Participants then completed a survey evaluating their current mood, life satisfaction, and future expectations. Contrary to expectations, no significant relationship was found between moving head conditions and attitude toward life, indicating a need for continued research concerning the limits of embodied cognition. The finding that participants in the neutral, unmoving condition scored higher in life satisfaction and optimism indicates that connection may exist between head motion (or in this case, lack of motion) and certain aspects of the broad topic of attitude toward life.