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.


Available from: Patric Bach
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    • "Previous studies observed a hierarchical organization between dimensions (i.e., an irrelevant dimension was only considered when another dimension was matching). For example, Bach et al. (2005) found that mismatching spatial information slowed down only the judgment of functionally correct actions. A similar result was obtained by van Elk et al. (2008): observation of irrelevant goal-or grip-related violations interfered with making decisions about the correctness of the relevant dimension only when the relevant dimension was correct. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Accessing action knowledge is believed to rely on the activation of action representations through the retrieval of functional, manipulative, and spatial information associated with objects. However, it remains unclear whether action representations can be activated in this way when the object information is irrelevant to the current judgment. The present study investigated this question by independently manipulating the correctness of three types of action-related information: the functional relation between the two objects, the grip applied to the objects, and the orientation of the objects. In each of three tasks in Experiment 1, participants evaluated the correctness of only one of the three information types (function, grip or orientation). Similar results were achieved with all three tasks: “correct” judgments were facilitated when the other dimensions were correct; however, “incorrect” judgments were facilitated when the other two dimensions were both correct and also when they were both incorrect. In Experiment 2, when participants attended to an action-irrelevant feature (object color), there was no interaction between function, grip, and orientation. These results clearly indicate that action representations can be activated by retrieval of functional, manipulative, and spatial knowledge about objects, even though this is task-irrelevant information.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Scandinavian Journal of Psychology
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    • "ried out " , until emulation and visual input overlap and the prediction error is minimal. 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 Bach et al., , 2010b ). The affordancematching hypothesis agrees with these general ideas. Both of these prior views, however, are relatively vague about how contextual information influences prediction and interpretation. With the notion of coupled function and manipulation knowledge, the affordance-matching hypothesis introduces a spe"
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] 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.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
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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. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] 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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