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Cognition. 2010 May;115(2):350-5. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.01.004. Epub 2010 Feb 13.

Response interference between functional and structural actions linked to the same familiar object.

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Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, Philadelphia, PA, United States.


Viewing objects with the intention to act upon them may activate task-irrelevant motor responses. Many manufactured objects are associated with two action classes: grasping in accordance with object structure and skillful use consistent with object function. We studied the potential for within-object competition during action selection by comparing initiation latencies for "conflict" objects (with competing structure and function responses) to "non-conflict" objects (with a single response). We demonstrated a novel pattern of within-object interference wherein actions involving conflict objects were slowed when participants skillfully used those objects (grasp-on-use interference) as well as a second pattern of interference when conflict objects were grasped after skillfully using the same objects in previous blocks (long-term use-on-grasp interference). These data suggest that actions to common objects are influenced by competition between rapid but briefly maintained grasp responses and slower but longer-lasting use responses, and advance our understanding of the process and neural substrates of selection for action.

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