Publications of Tsai, J.C.

On the inclusion of externally controlled actions in action planning

According to ideomotor theories, perceiving action effects produced by others triggers corresponding action representations in the observer. We tested whether this principle extends to actions performed by externally controlled limbs and tools. Participants performed a go-no-go version of a spatial compatibility task in which their own actions resulted in the movement of a limb or tool, whereas a second, externally controlled limb or tool was seen performing a complementary go-no-go task. Spatial compatibility effects, indicating inclusion of the externally controlled effector in action planning, were observed when the externally controlled limb was identical to the controlled limb (Experiment 1) and when actions of limbs and tools (Experiment 2) or pairs of tools (Experiment 3 and 4) were combined according to participants' motor experience. When participants acted together, controlling a tool each, spatial compatibility effects occurred regardless of motor experience (Experiment 5). These findings demonstrate that (a) externally controlled tool actions are included in action planning and (b) social context modulates how externally controlled actions are mapped onto action representations. Implications of these findings for theories of perception-action links and object processing are discussed.