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Behav. Sci. 2013, 3(3), 316-329; doi:10.3390/bs3030316

The Impact of Precaution and Practice on the Performance of a Risky Motor Task

1, 2
1 Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University, Ramat-Aviv 69978, Israel 2 Departments of Psychology and Anthropology, Washington University, St Louis, MO 63130, USA 3 Human Performance Wing, US Air Force Research Laboratory, WPAFB, OH 45433, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 15 April 2013 / Revised: 14 June 2013 / Accepted: 18 June 2013 / Published: 26 June 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Functional Perspectives on Emotion, Behavior, and Cognition)
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The association between threat perception and motor execution, mediated by evolved precaution systems, often results in ritual-like behavior, including many idiosyncratic acts that seem irrelevant to the task at hand. This study tested the hypothesis that threat-detection during performance of a risky motor task would result in idiosyncratic activity that is not necessary for task completion. We asked biology students to follow a particular set of instructions in mixing three solutions labeled “bio-hazardous” and then repeat this operation with “non-hazardous” substances (or vice versa). We observed a longer duration of the overall performance, a greater repertoire of acts, longer maximal act duration, and longer mean duration of acts in the “risky” task when it was performed before the “non-risky” task. Some, but not all, of these differences were eliminated when a “non-risky” task preceded the “risky” one. The increased performance of idiosyncratic unnecessary activity is in accordance with the working hypothesis of the present study: ritualized idiosyncratic activities are performed in response to a real or illusionary threat, as a means to alleviate anxiety.
Keywords: emotion; affect; anxiety; precaution; cognition; behavior emotion; affect; anxiety; precaution; cognition; behavior
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Keren, H.; Boyer, P.; Mort, J.; Eilam, D. The Impact of Precaution and Practice on the Performance of a Risky Motor Task. Behav. Sci. 2013, 3, 316-329.

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