Schmidt and colleagues wanted to learn more about how nonverbal messages influence how people think and behave. They “recorded participants' EEG brain responses while they played a risk game developed in our laboratory. . . . we predicted that cognitive control would be reduced in the helmet group [that is, people playing the game while wearing a bicycle helmet although they were not near a bicycle], indicated by reduced frontal midline theta power, and that this group would prefer riskier options in the risk game. . . . we found that participants in the helmet group showed significantly lower frontal midline theta power than participants in the control group, indicating less cognitive control. . . . Our results suggest that wearing a bike helmet reduces cognitive control, as revealed by reduced frontal midline theta power, leading to risk indifference when evaluating potential behaviors.” It is likely that the effect observed, tying feeling protected/safe and lower levels of cognitive control, is likely to be found in contexts beyond those tested.
Barbara Schmidt, Luisa Kessler, Clay Holroyd, and Wolfgang Miltner. “Wearing a Bike Helmet Leads to Less Cognitive Control, Revealed by Lower Frontal Midline Theta Power and Risk Indifference.” Psychophysiology, in press, https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13458