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March 21, 2012 at 10:15 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Healthy Amounts of Repetition= Reduction in Anxiety

By Brad Plaggemars More Blogs by This Author

Welcome back to Mental Marvels-where the focus is brain behavior and mental phenomenons.

Repetition, according to Merriam-Webster is, "the act or an instance of repeating or being repeated". When I think of repetition, I normally imagine something boring or annoying happening over and over. However, there is a study that was recently released by Professor David Eilam and graduate student Hila Keren of Tel Aviv University that says that repetition can be beneficial to one's health.

The Study

Eilam and Keren found that repetitive behavior is a shared phenomenon between animals and humans.  They discovered that ritualistic behavior in humans and animals expanded into a way to generate calm and manage stress. 

Professor Eilam says that human and animal activity can be put into three different parts: preparatory, functional, and confirmatory.  The functional part is defined as the certain actions needed to complete a specific task.  Preparatory and confirmatory actions are also known as "head" and "tail" actions.  Preparatory and confirmatory are not required to complete the action.  They are completed before and after the central task, but are not necessarily related to the central task. 

Researchers viewed and analyzed videotapes of people completing routine tasks like putting on a shirt, locking a car, or making coffee.  They also looked at basketball players completing free-throws.  In regards to the basketball players, Professor Eilam says, "The routine they perform in the moments before shooting the ball is a method to focus their full concentration and control their actions."  If basketball players think that completing their repetitive actions will improve their performance, then they will more likely be more successful.  A person with OCD will highly exaggerate such activities, for example, checking and rechecking to see if the stove is turned off.  These characteristics are different for each person.  Professor Eilam says that such rituals are similar to fingerprints-unique to each individual.

Pathological or Not?

Everybody possesses repetitive behavior, however, those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder have a pathological tendency in regards to repetitive behaviors and thoughts.  People with OCD often deal with a feeling of incompleteness.  "They are unsure whether or not their task has been completed, and compulsive behavior is driven by a need to verify the action."  With a free throw, there is a sure sign that the action has been completed:throwing of the ball.  A common compulsive behavior, washing one's hands, is a behavior that does not have as clear of an ending.  One doesn't know if one's hands are completely clean.

The research of this study is published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, in collaboration with Professor Pascal Boyer of Washington University and Dr. Joel Mort of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.


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UGA College of Ag

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