The influence of environmental context in interpersonal observation–execution

Roberts, James W. and Bennett, Simon J. and Welsh, Timothy N. and Elliott, Digby and Lyons, James L. and Hayes, Spencer J. (2016) The influence of environmental context in interpersonal observation–execution. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70 (1). pp. 154-162. ISSN 1747-0218

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Cyclical upper-limb movements involuntarily deviate from a primary movement direction when the actor concurrently observes incongruent biological motion. We examined whether environmental context influences such motor interference during interpersonal observation-execution. Participants executed continuous horizontal arm movements while observing congruent horizontal or incongruent curvilinear biological movements with or without the presence of an object positioned as an obstacle or distractor. When observing a curvilinear movement, an object located within the movement space became an obstacle, and thus, the curvilinear trajectory was essential to reach into horizontal space. When acting as a distractor, or with no object, the curvilinear trajectory was no longer essential. For observing horizontal movements, objects were located at the same relative locations as in the curvilinear movement condition. We found greater involuntary movement deviation when observing curvilinear compared to the horizontal movements. Also, there was an influence of context only when observing horizontal movements, with greater deviation exhibited in the presence of a large obstacle. These findings suggest the influence of environmental context is underpinned by the (mis-)matching of observed and executed actions as incongruent biological motion is primarily coded via bottom-up sensorimotor processes, whilst the congruent condition incorporates surrounding environmental features to modulate the bottom-up sensorimotor processes.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information and Comments: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology on March 16, 2016, available online:
Keywords: Top-down modulation, Motor contagion, Environmental context, Proximity-to-hand effect
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Science > School of Health Sciences
Depositing User: James Roberts
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2017 08:22
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2017 08:22

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