The effects of facial expressions on cycling performance: An embodied cognition approach


Embodied Cognition (EC) refers to how the mind is understood in the context of its relationship to a physical body that interacts with the world (Wilson, 2002) and has been applied across various domains. The impact of EC on Ratings of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and athletic performance have been examined, however, to the best of our knowledge, no study has examined the link between EC, RPE, actual exertion, and performance during intense physical activity via the inducement of facial expressions. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether the embodiment of specific facial expressions had an effect on participants' RPE, actual exertion (heart rate), and performance (kilometers travelled) during a 20 minute cycling task on a stationary bicycle. In this ongoing research, introductory psychology students from the University of New Brunswick participated in a repeated measures design, which involved the completion of three 20-minute cycling sessions in three conditions (i.e., smiling, grimacing, and neutral face) within a two-week period. Participants were randomized to an order and depending on their condition were 1) prompted to produce a smile, a grimace, or a neutral facial expression; 2) asked to rate their perceived exertion, and 3) had their heart rate measured at various time intervals. The distance cycled at a fixed resistance over 20 minutes was the dependent variable. Through the implementation of three separate repeated measures ANOVA's, no significant differences were found across conditions for RPE, heart rate, or distance.