Action induction through action observation.

Research paper by Sara S De Maeght, Wolfgang W Prinz

Indexed on: 06 Feb '04Published on: 06 Feb '04Published in: Psychological research


Ideomotor movements may arise in individuals while they watch goal-directed actions or events. In a previous study we developed a paradigm for investigating ideomotor movements induced through watching the outcome of one's own action. In the present study we extended the paradigm to investigate both movements induced through watching the outcome of one's own as well as somebody else's action (player mode and observer mode respectively). We report three experiments, each with differing conditions for the player mode, but identical conditions for the observer mode. Results indicate that in both modes ideomotor movements are governed by two basic principles: Perceptual induction and intentional induction. In the player mode we replicated and extended previous findings, indicating dissociation between hand and head movements. In the observer mode no such dissociation was obtained. Our findings suggest that people perform, in their own actions, what they see being performed in other people's actions. Induction of action through observation can pertain to both the action's physical surface and underlying intentions. Furthermore, our results suggest that perceptual induction is ubiquitous but may be locally suspended for intentional action control. We discuss our results in the framework of theories invoking a strong overlap between representational structures for action perception and action planning.