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PLoS One. 2015 Nov 6;10(11):e0141791. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141791. eCollection 2015.

Priming Gestures with Sounds.

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Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences/Department of Psychology/Auditory Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America.


We report a series of experiments about a little-studied type of compatibility effect between a stimulus and a response: the priming of manual gestures via sounds associated with these gestures. The goal was to investigate the plasticity of the gesture-sound associations mediating this type of priming. Five experiments used a primed choice-reaction task. Participants were cued by a stimulus to perform response gestures that produced response sounds; those sounds were also used as primes before the response cues. We compared arbitrary associations between gestures and sounds (key lifts and pure tones) created during the experiment (i.e. no pre-existing knowledge) with ecological associations corresponding to the structure of the world (tapping gestures and sounds, scraping gestures and sounds) learned through the entire life of the participant (thus existing prior to the experiment). Two results were found. First, the priming effect exists for ecological as well as arbitrary associations between gestures and sounds. Second, the priming effect is greatly reduced for ecologically existing associations and is eliminated for arbitrary associations when the response gesture stops producing the associated sounds. These results provide evidence that auditory-motor priming is mainly created by rapid learning of the association between sounds and the gestures that produce them. Auditory-motor priming is therefore mediated by short-term associations between gestures and sounds that can be readily reconfigured regardless of prior knowledge.

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