The influence of postural threat on strategy selection in a stepping-down paradigm

Nick Kluft, Sjoerd M. Bruijn, M. John Luu, Jaap H.van Dieën, Mark G. Carpenter, Mirjam Pijnappels*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


To walk safely in their environment, people need to select adequate movement strategies during gait. In situations that are perceived as more threatening, older adults adopt more cautious strategies. For individuals with excessive fear, selecting adequate strategies might be troubling. We investigated how a postural threat affects the selection of strategies within and between older adults by using a stepping-down paradigm. In twenty-four older adults we determined the height at which they switched in stepping-down strategies from a less demanding but more balance threatening heel landing to a more demanding yet safer toe landing. We expected that this switching height would be lower in the high (0.78 m elevation) compared to low threat (floor level) condition. Furthermore, we investigated if older adults, for which the postural threat evoked an increase in the perceived fear, presented a different stepping down strategy due to the postural threat. Our results indicated that the postural threat changed older adults’ strategies selection towards a more conservative toe landing. Hence, despite the additional effort, older adults prefer more cautious strategies during a postural threat. No effects of perceived fear on strategy selection between individuals were observed, potentially due to relatively small differences in fear among participants.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10815
Pages (from-to)9
Number of pages1
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date2 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


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