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Moving higher and higher: imitators' movements are sensitive to observed trajectories regardless of action rationality

Forbes, PAG; Hamilton, AFDC; (2017) Moving higher and higher: imitators' movements are sensitive to observed trajectories regardless of action rationality. Experimental Brain Research , 235 (9) pp. 2741-2753. 10.1007/s00221-017-5006-4. Green open access

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Abstract

Humans sometimes perform actions which, at least superficially, appear suboptimal to the goal they are trying to achieve. Despite being able to identify these irrational actions from an early age, humans display a curious tendency to copy them. The current study recorded participants' movements during an established imitation task and manipulated the rationality of the observed action in two ways. Participants observed videos of a model point to a series of targets with either a low, high or 'superhigh' trajectory either in the presence or absence of obstacles between her targets. The participants' task was to watch which targets the model pointed to and then point to the same targets on the table in front of them. There were no obstacles between the participants' targets. Firstly, we found that the peak height of participants' movements between their targets was sensitive to the height of the model's movements, even in the 'superhigh' condition where the model's action was rated as irrational. Secondly, participants showed obstacle priming-the peak height of participants' movements was higher after having observed the model move over obstacles to reach her targets, compared to when there were no obstacles between her targets. This suggests that participants code the environment of co-actors into their own motor programs, even when this compromises the efficiency of their own movements. We discuss the implications of our findings in terms of theories of imitation and obstacle priming.

Type: Article
Title: Moving higher and higher: imitators' movements are sensitive to observed trajectories regardless of action rationality
Location: Germany
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s00221-017-5006-4
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-017-5006-4
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Imitation, Motor contagion, Obstacle priming, Perception–action coupling
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1560579
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