Complementary Hand Responses Occur in Both Peri- and Extrapersonal Space

Tim W. Faber, Michiel van Elk, Kai J. Jonas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Human beings have a strong tendency to imitate. Evidence from motor priming paradigms suggests that people automatically tend to imitate observed actions such as hand gestures by performing mirror-congruent movements (e.g., lifting one's right finger upon observing a left finger movement; from a mirror perspective). Many observed actions however, do not require mirror-congruent responses but afford complementary (fitting) responses instead (e.g., handing over a cup; shaking hands). Crucially, whereas mirror-congruent responses don't require physical interaction with another person, complementary actions often do. Given that most experiments studying motor priming have used stimuli devoid of contextual information, this space or interaction-dependency of complementary responses has not yet been assessed. To address this issue, we let participants perform a task in which they had to mirror or complement a hand gesture (fist or open hand) performed by an actor depicted either within or outside of reach. In three studies, we observed faster reaction times and less response errors for complementary relative to mirrored hand movements in response to open hand gestures (i.e., `hand-shaking') irrespective of the perceived interpersonal distance of the actor. This complementary effect could not be accounted for by a low-level spatial cueing effect. These results demonstrate that humans have a strong and automatic tendency to respond by performing complementary actions. In addition, our findings underline the limitations of manipulations of space in modulating effects of motor priming and the perception of affordances.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0154457
Number of pages28
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume11
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • MIRROR-NEURON SYSTEM
  • AUTOMATIC IMITATION
  • MOTOR IMAGERY
  • JOINT ACTION
  • COMPATIBILITY
  • OBJECTS
  • SIMULATION
  • ERP

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