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Psychol Sci. 2010 Sep;21(9):1215-9. doi: 10.1177/0956797610378307. Epub 2010 Jul 16.

A functional role for motor simulation in identifying tools.

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Department of Psychological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


Embodied cognition promotes the involvement of the motor system in cognitive processing, such as tool identification. Although neuropsychological studies suggest that the motor system is not necessary for identifying tools, it may still have a functional role in tool recognition. To test this possibility, we used a motor interference task: Participants squeezed a rubber ball in one hand while naming pictures of tools and animals. Participants were faster and more accurate in naming the tools that were oriented with the handle facing away from the squeezing hand than in naming the tools that were oriented with the handle facing toward the squeezing hand. There was no effect of orientation for animals. Given that participants simulate grasping a tool with the hand closest to the handle, this result demonstrates that interfering with the ability to simulate grasping impairs tool naming and suggests that motor simulation has a functional role in tool identification.

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