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Visual experience determines the use of external reference frames in joint action control

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Dolk,  Thomas
Department Psychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Prinz,  Wolfgang
Department Psychology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Dolk_2013_Visual.pdf
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Citation

Dolk, T., Liepelt, R., Prinz, W., & Fiehler, K. (2013). Visual experience determines the use of external reference frames in joint action control. PLoS One, 8(3): e59008. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059008.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000E-ABB6-3
Abstract
Vision plays a crucial role in human interaction by facilitating the coordination of one's own actions with those of others in space and time. While previous findings have demonstrated that vision determines the default use of reference frames, little is known about the role of visual experience in coding action-space during joint action. Here, we tested if and how visual experience influences the use of reference frames in joint action control. Dyads of congenitally-blind, blindfolded-sighted, and seeing individuals took part in an auditory version of the social Simon task, which required each participant to respond to one of two sounds presented to the left or right of both participants. To disentangle the contribution of external—agent-based and response-based—reference frames during joint action, participants performed the task with their respective response (right) hands uncrossed or crossed over one another. Although the location of the auditory stimulus was completely task-irrelevant, participants responded overall faster when the stimulus location spatially corresponded to the required response side than when they were spatially non-corresponding: a phenomenon known as the social Simon effect (SSE). In sighted participants, the SSE occurred irrespective of whether hands were crossed or uncrossed, suggesting the use of external, response-based reference frames. Congenitally-blind participants also showed an SSE, but only with uncrossed hands. We argue that congenitally-blind people use both agent-based and response-based reference frames resulting in conflicting spatial information when hands are crossed and, thus, canceling out the SSE. These results imply that joint action control functions on the basis of external reference frames independent of the presence or (transient/permanent) absence of vision. However, the type of external reference frames used for organizing motor control in joint action seems to be determined by visual experience.