In a study on emotion as it relates to motor control, some inferable yet interesting hypotheses were confirmed. Coombes et al., set out to determine the affect that two types of impulses have on people’s ability to perform a simple task. What they found could potentially draw our attention towards some interesting implications in a variety of fields.

As established in previous research, human beings are basically wired to react according to the attractiveness or repulsiveness of what they are seeing. More specifically, negative emotion causes decreased ability to control the accuracy of movement, which is generally attributed to evolutionary survival. In sum, the study found that when people are shown “unpleasant” as opposed to “pleasant” pictures, they were quicker yet less accurate in completing a simple task. Furthermore, the findings suggest an even greater loss of movement control during longer exposures to “unpleasant” pictures. These findings support direct behavioral consequences from exposure to unpleasant stimuli, especially longer exposure in which it was suggested that people were able to think about what they were seeing.

A review of this research brings to mind those professions in which people routinely overcome the instinct to avoid unpleasant or even horrific scenes in order to accomplish a task. I am thinking specifically of those in the emergency healthcare or the military. We often think of the circumstances these people perform under as heroic and undeniably so; they cannot be commended enough for their truly unique valor. However, what might the implications of this research suggest about what these men and women are able to accomplish from a fine motor skills perspective? It is frequently said that training takes over and you simply perform the job you are there to do. Can training potentially override the response discussed in the research? Medics may not need especially fine motor control in the field, but maybe there are applications for high-level training as a remedy to loss of motor control in other areas. I believe this concept, should it be true, to be indicative of a larger pattern in how we are wired. With a task we care about, such as saving a life, we push the threshold of what we think is possible; meaningfulness is the key.

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