Action Comprehension: Deriving Spatial and Functional Relations.

Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research, Munich, Germany.
Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception & Performance (Impact Factor: 3.36). 07/2005; 31(3):465-79. DOI: 10.1037/0096-1523.31.3.465
Source: PubMed


A perceived action can be understood only when information about the action carried out and the objects used are taken into account. It was investigated how spatial and functional information contributes to establishing these relations. Participants observed static frames showing a hand wielding an instrument and a potential target object of the action. The 2 elements could either match or mismatch, spatially or functionally. Participants were required to judge only 1 of the 2 relations while ignoring the other. Both irrelevant spatial and functional mismatches affected judgments of the relevant relation. Moreover, the functional relation provided a context for the judgment of the spatial relation but not vice versa. The results are discussed in respect to recent accounts of action understanding.

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    • "In such views, therefore, the firing of mirror neurons is interpreted not as the autonomous detection of an action goal (Rizzolatti and Craighero, 2004), but as the detection of a predicted motor act that is in line with a previously inferred action goal (cf. Bach et al., 2005, 2010b). The affordancematching hypothesis agrees with these general ideas. "
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    ABSTRACT: Action understanding lies at the heart of social interaction. Prior research has often conceptualized this capacity in terms of a motoric matching of observed actions to an action in one's motor repertoire, but has ignored the role of object information. In this manuscript, we set out an alternative conception of intention understanding, which places the role of objects as central to our observation and comprehension of the actions of others. We outline the current understanding of the interconnectedness of action and object knowledge, demonstrating how both rely heavily on the other. We then propose a novel framework, the affordance-matching hypothesis, which incorporates these findings into a simple model of action understanding, in which object knowledge-what an object is for and how it is used-can inform and constrain both action interpretation and prediction. We will review recent empirical evidence that supports such an object-based view of action understanding and we relate the affordance matching hypothesis to recent proposals that have re-conceptualized the role of mirror neurons in action understanding.
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    • "Before the experiment, participants rated the objects with regard to (a) how painful they would be to touch and (b) to what degree they judged this from personal experience on a five-point scale anchored by the terms “very much” and “not at all” [adapted from a questionnaire described in detail in Bach et al., 2005; see also Bach et al., 2010]. Each subject performed two runs of the experiment, lasting for about 12 min each. "
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    ABSTRACT: Sensorimotor regions of the brain have been implicated in simulation processes such as action understanding and empathy, but their functional role in these processes remains unspecified. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to demonstrate that postcentral sensorimotor cortex integrates action and object information to derive the sensory outcomes of observed hand-object interactions. When subjects viewed others' hands grasping or withdrawing from objects that were either painful or nonpainful, distinct sensorimotor subregions emerged as showing preferential responses to different aspects of the stimuli: object information (noxious vs. innocuous), action information (grasps vs. withdrawals), and painful action outcomes (painful grasps vs. all other conditions). Activation in the latter region correlated with subjects' ratings of how painful each object would be to touch and their previous experience with the object. Viewing others' painful grasps also biased behavioral responses to actual tactile stimulation, a novel effect not seen for auditory control stimuli. Somatosensory cortices, including primary somatosensory areas 1/3b and 2 and parietal area PF, may therefore subserve somatomotor simulation processes by integrating action and object information to anticipate the sensory consequences of observed hand-object interactions. Hum Brain Mapp, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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    • "Interestingly, some studies on action observation have shown that there is a preference for the outcome of the action rather than for the actual hand kinematics involved (Bach et al., 2005; van Elk et al., 2008, 2011; Cattaneo et al., 2009). Conversely, other studies seem to suggest a direct coupling between visual aspects of an observed action and motor cortex excitability (Gangitano et al., 2001; Maeda et al., 2002; Alaerts et al., 2009; Cavallo et al., 2011, 2012). "
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