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Neuropsychologia. 2009 May;47(6):1600-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.07.009. Epub 2008 Jul 18.

A picture says more than a thousand words: behavioural and ERP evidence for attentional enhancements due to action affordances.

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Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Onrtario, Canada.


Previous research has demonstrated that, in addition to ventral stream processing of object form, manipulable objects are represented functionally in the dorsal stream. Here, we demonstrate how the two streams interact via attentional selection and consolidation such that objects whose form fits the function of a previously seen object, such as a tool, benefit from attentional enhancements due to the action affordance of the tool. Using the attentional blink (AB) paradigm and event-related potentials (ERPs), we tested whether providing an action relationship between two objects appearing closely together in time counteracts the typical decrement observed for processing of the second item. We used images (experiments 1a and 2) and names (experiment 1b) of common tools, objects that can be acted upon by those tools, and unrelated objects. We found that pictorial presentation of a tool and its action counterpart results in a diminished attentional blink as well as enhanced attentional selection seen as a larger P3, relative to tools and unrelated objects, and that this attentional enhancement is not driven by semantic associations. This means that the action affordance instantiated by the perception of a tool will reduce the functional blindness normally observed when two targets are presented too closely in time, specifically when the physical properties of the tool that elicit an action affordance are perceived.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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