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Motor Representations in Visual Object Recognition


Helbig,  HB
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Department Human Perception, Cognition and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Graf, M., Helbig, H., & Kiefer, M. (2005). Motor Representations in Visual Object Recognition. Poster presented at 8th Tübinger Wahrnehmungskonferenz (TWK 2005), Tübingen, Germany.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-D657-1
It has been proposed recently that object recognition relies on coordinate transformations, i.e. on similar processes as visuomotor control [1]. Thus, the two visual streams involved in object recognition and object-directed action may rely on common computational principles, which provides the possibility for interactions between the two streams. Existing behavioral and neurophysiological findings suggest that viewing manipulable objects automatically potentiates possible actions [e.g., 2,3]. We investigated whether action knowledge has a functional role in visual object recognition. More specifically, we used a priming paradigm to test whether objects are recognized better when viewed after another object which affords congruent as compared to incongruent motor interactions. Two grey-scale pictures of artifactual manipulable objects were presented sequentially (tools, kitchen utensils, musical instruments). Subjects were required to name the objects. The stimuli were briefly presented and masked. The presentation time of the second object was adjusted individually in an adjustment phase so that naming accuracy approached 80. In the congruent condition both objects afforded a similar motor interaction, and dissimilar motor interactions in the incongruent condition. Stimulus pairs in both conditions were matched for baseline naming accuracy, word frequency, word length, as well as visual and semantic similarity. We found that naming accuracy was higher in the congruent than in the incongruent condition (Experiment 1 and 2). This action congruency effect indicates that object naming is facilitated by a previous activation of an appropriate action representation. In two further experiments we investigated the nature of the representations underlying the action congruency effect. The effect was reduced or absent when the prime stimulus was inverted (Experiment 3), and when the prime was presented as a word (Experiment 4). This suggests that the action representations underlying this congruency effect are closer to specific (parameterised) motor representations than to abstract semantic representations. Overall, the findings suggest that the recognition of manipulable objects involves not only visual but also action representations. These are not abstract semantic representations, but are relatively close to motor representations.