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The influence of anticipatory processing associated with anxiety on emotional states, physiological responses, and balance control Geh, Carolyn


Falls and fear of falling is a crucial health care problem facing the elderly population. Although it is known that peoples ability to maintain their balance become impoverished under conditions of postural threat, the role of anticipatory anxiety in the cognitive mechanisms that lead to such changes in state anxiety and balance control is not fully understood. Applying Clark and Wells (1995) model of anticipatory cognitive processing, this study aimed to explore how anticipatory anxiety influences the perceptions of emotional states, physiological responses, and balance control in young, healthy female adults, and whether personality predispositions to experiencing anxiety accounts for some differences in these responses. A social learning paradigm was employed to induce anticipatory anxiety in the participants through the use of video observations of other people experiencing anxiety under similar conditions faced by the participants. The sample for the current study consisted of twenty six young, healthy female adults recruited from the university population. In a 2 (Threat versus Non-threat condition) x 2 (Bin time 1 versus Bin Time 2) fully repeated measures design, the following results were obtained: (1) Perceptions of fear and state anxiety were significantly higher in the threat condition compared to the non-threat condition. These increased levels of self-reported state anxiety and fear were also found to be significantly influenced by Trait Anxiety. (2) Changes in physiological arousal, including systolic and diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, and galvanic skin conductance was significantly higher in participants in the threat condition compared with the non-threat condition. Changes in galvanic skin conductance (though not other physiological variables), were found to be affected by Trait Anxiety. (3) No differences were found between the threat and non-threat condition for the frequency and amplitude (in both AP and ML directions) of postural sway. Subsequently, these differences were not pronounced when balance variables were examined as an effect of trait anxiety differences between groups dependent on threat condition.

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