Study Says: Lay Back to Ward Off an Attack

Emotional responses to being insulted may vary from person to person, but results are typically negative. In many cases, people may feel inclined to demonstrate aggressiveness when provoked, either through verbal or physical attacks. Curiously, however, a recent study has shown that an action as simple as lying down can significantly reduce the impulse to strike back.

Held at Texas A & M University, the study invited participants to craft a short opinion-based writing piece about a contentious issue. The participants were not initially briefed about any incorporation of anger into the research, but were told that their essay would be read and evaluated by someone in a nearby room. The participants were then presented with a recording of an “evaluator” making derogatory statements about the intelligence of the essay and its writer; participants were either standing or reclining while reviewing the recording. Significantly, those participants who were lying down while absorbing the statements were far less likely to feel aggressive towards the source of the offense, and displayed a lower tendency to desire counter-attack, a reaction clearly indicated by simultaneous brain scanning.

While the degree of anger experienced in reaction to the recording was similar in both groups of participants, the clear distinction in retaliation may point to distinct benefits for helping to control violent impulses and behaviors in a range of settings. Notably, the traditional recline on a couch during psychotherapy sessions may help potentially difficult yet ultimately helpful observations and comments reach therapy clients while sustaining a peaceful atmosphere. The scientists hope to use the new information to explore how happiness and other more positive emotions are affected by physical position.

© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Gaye


    August 23rd, 2009 at 1:57 PM

    interesting. . . so the next time someone makes me mad I think I will just tell them to lay off for a while, I have to go take a nap. lol
    glad to hear that this is helpful, but how useful is it really in the everyday world?

  • Craig H

    Craig H

    August 23rd, 2009 at 5:01 PM

    What you just said is what makes it useful Gaye. Plus it’s not as easy to swing a punch from a reclining position! If you feel yourself getting mad, just lying down could make a difference.

  • Dolly


    August 24th, 2009 at 4:08 AM

    I find it really funny to read this!! Anyway this helps me understand why lazy people dont react to anyone yelling at them. They can lie on their backs all day long and not budge for any verbal abuse.

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