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Cognition. 2013 Jul;128(1):76-81. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2013.03.005. Epub 2013 Apr 22.

Handing a tool to someone can take more time than using it.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Etude des Mécanismes Cognitifs (EA 3082), Université Lyon 2, France.


Jax and Buxbaum [Jax and Buxbaum (2010). Response interference between functional and structural actions linked to the same familiar object. Cognition, 115, 350-355] demonstrated that grasp-to-transport actions (handing an object to someone, i.e., a receiver) are initiated more quickly than grasp-to-use actions. A possible interpretation of these findings is that grasp-to-transport actions do not require activation of long-term representations. In Jax and Buxbaum's study, participants positioned their hand on the object as they would to transport/use it in a conventional way. So, movement planning was based only on egocentric relationships (individual-object) and not on allocentric relationships (object-object or object-"receiver"). It is likely that participants may not have activated long-term social representations about how to hand an object to someone in the transport task. In Experiment 1, we replicated J&B's results by asking participants to position their hand on familiar tools as they would to hand them to someone (grasp-to-transport)/use them in a non-conventional way (i.e., to hit a ball, grasp-to-use). In Experiment 2, participants had to actually perform the actions. We found the opposite pattern in that grasp-to-use actions were initiated more quickly than grasp-to-transport actions. These findings indicate that the modulation of allocentric constraints might induce activation of long-term representations in transport actions. This suggests that, under certain circumstances, long-term representations might be necessary not only for use actions but also for transport actions.

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