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Psychon Bull Rev. 2014 Jun;21(3):645-51. doi: 10.3758/s13423-013-0536-7.

Visual context modulates potentiation of grasp types during semantic object categorization.

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Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute, Elkins Park, PA, USA,


Substantial evidence suggests that conceptual processing of manipulable objects is associated with potentiation of action. Such data have been viewed as evidence that objects are recognized via access to action features. Many objects, however, are associated with multiple actions. For example, a kitchen timer may be clenched with a power grip to move it but pinched with a precision grip to use it. The present study tested the hypothesis that action evocation during conceptual object processing is responsive to the visual scene in which objects are presented. Twenty-five healthy adults were asked to categorize object pictures presented in different naturalistic visual contexts that evoke either move- or use-related actions. Categorization judgments (natural vs. artifact) were performed by executing a move- or use-related action (clench vs. pinch) on a response device, and response times were assessed as a function of contextual congruence. Although the actions performed were irrelevant to the categorization judgment, responses were significantly faster when actions were compatible with the visual context. This compatibility effect was largely driven by faster pinch responses when objects were presented in use-compatible, as compared with move-compatible, contexts. The present study is the first to highlight the influence of visual scene on stimulus-response compatibility effects during semantic object processing. These data support the hypothesis that action evocation during conceptual object processing is biased toward context-relevant actions.

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