Does approach motivation account for the impact of locomotion on positive affect?
Moving around seems to make us feel better...but why? In this dissertation I draw from research on affect, approach motivation, and embodied cognition suggesting that locomotion (i.e., walking) facilitates positive affect because it increases sensitivity to rewards, a key aspect of approach motivation. Approach motivation is an organismic tendency, either dispositional or induced, to pursue needed resources or rewarding experiences. To test the mediational hypothesis that approach motivation mediates the impact of locomotion on positive affect, two studies were conducted and mediational hypotheses were tested using statistical bootstrapping procedures. In Study 1, locomotion in the form of a walk increased incentivized performance on a card-sorting task. According to the results of the bootstrapping analyses, performance on the card-sorting task partially mediated the relationship between locomotion and positive affect change, although the overall effect did not reach significance. In Study 2, locomotion increased self-reported approach motivation, partially mediating the impact of locomotion on positive affect, backing the results of Study 1. However, another proposed measure of approach motivation in Study 2, object desirability, was not impacted by locomotion. Taken together, the results of these studies support the hypothesis that approach motivation mediates the causal relationship between locomotion and positive affect when approach motivation is measured behaviorally as reward-sensitivity (Study 1) or as self-reported readiness to respond to rewards (Study 2). In short, locomotion increases our readiness to invest effort in obtaining rewards that make us feel better.