Influences of State Anxiety on Gaze Behavior and Stepping Accuracy in Older Adults During Adaptive Locomotion

WR Young, Alan Wing, Mark Hollands

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Citations (Scopus)


Older adults deemed to be at a high risk of falling transfer their gaze from a stepping target earlier than their low-risk counterparts. The extent of premature gaze transfer increases with task complexity and is associated with a decline in stepping accuracy. This study tests the hypothesis that increased anxiety about upcoming obstacles is associated with (a) premature transfers of gaze toward obstacles (i.e., looking away from a target box prior to completing the step on it in order to fixate future constraints in the walkway) and (b) reduced stepping accuracy on the target in older adults. High-risk (9) and low-risk (8) older adult participants walked a 10-m pathway containing a stepping target area followed by various arrangements of obstacles, which varied with each trial. Anxiety, eye movements, and movement kinematics were measured. Progressively increasing task complexity resulted in associated statistically significant increases in measures of anxiety, extent of early gaze transfer, and stepping inaccuracies in the high-risk group. These results provide evidence that increased anxiety about environmental hazards is related to suboptimal visual sampling behavior which, in turn, negatively influences stepping performance, potentially contributing to increased falls risk in older adults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-51
Number of pages9
JournalThe journals of gerontology. Series B, Psychological sciences and social sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Anxiety
  • Vision
  • Locomotion
  • Older adults
  • Attention


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