When do we simulate non-human agents? Dissociating communicative and non-communicative actions

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There is strong evidence that we automatically simulate observed behavior in our motor system. Previous research suggests that this simulation process depends on whether we observe a human or a non-human agent. Measuring a motor priming effect, this study investigated the question of whether agent-sensitivity of motor simulation depends on the specific action observed. Participants saw pictures depicting end positions of different actions on a screen. All postures featured either a human or non-human agent. Participants had to produce the matching action with their left or right hand depending on the hand presented on the screen. Three different actions were displayed: a communicative action (emblem), a transitive (goal-directed) action and an intransitive action. We found motor priming effects of similar size for human and non-human agents for transitive and intransitive actions. However, the motor priming effect for communicative actions was present for the human agent, but absent for the non-human agent. These findings suggest that biological tuning of motor simulation is highly action-selective and depends on whether the observed behavior appears to be driven by a reasonable goal.

ZeitschriftBrain and cognition
Seiten (von - bis)426-434
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 06.2010

ID: 2757051


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