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Social learning of action-effect associations: Modulation of action control following observation of virtual action’s effects

Abstract : A core assumption of ideomotor theory is that learned bidirectional associations between actions and their effects enable agents to select and initiate actions by anticipating their sensory consequences. Although the acquisition of bidirectional Action-Effect (A-E) associations built on the experience of one’s own movements has received considerable empirical support, the available evidence for A-E learning through the observation of others’ actions and their effects remains limited. In two experiments, we tested whether A-E associations could be acquired through social learning in an experimental setup involving observation of virtual actions. In an acquisition phase, participants repeatedly observed finger movements on a screen, and each movement was consistently followed by a specific effect tone. In the subsequent test phase, tones were presented as imperative stimuli in a reaction time task. In both experiments, reaction times were shorter when tones required the same response with which they had been linked in the preceding observation phase, compared to when they required a different response, revealing the impact of A-E associations acquired through observation. Similar results were obtained whether the movements observed during the acquisition phase were spatially aligned (Experiment 1) or not (Experiment 2) with participants’ responses in the test phase, ruling out the possibility that the results merely reflect spatial compatibility effects. Our findings add new evidence for an acquisition of A-E associations through observation. Importantly, we generalize this acquisition process to the observation of virtual actions. These findings further confirm effect-based action control, as proposed by ideomotor theory.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, November 4, 2020 - 5:37:59 PM
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Kathleen Belhassein, Peter Marshall, Arnaud Badets, Cédric Bouquet. Social learning of action-effect associations: Modulation of action control following observation of virtual action’s effects. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, Springer Verlag, 2020, ⟨10.3758/s13414-020-02157-1⟩. ⟨hal-02983277⟩

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