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Psychol Res. 2014 Jan;78(1):1-9. doi: 10.1007/s00426-013-0485-9. Epub 2013 Feb 9.

Getting a tool gives wings: overestimation of tool-related benefits in a motor imagery task and a decision task.

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


Two experiments examine whether people overestimate the benefits provided by tool use in motor tasks. Participants had to move different quantities of objects by hand (two at a time) or with a tool (four at a time). The tool was not within reach so participants had to get it before moving the objects. In Experiment 1, the task was performed in a real and an imagined situation. In Experiment 2, participants had to decide for each quantity, whether they preferred moving the objects by hand or with the tool. Our findings indicated that people perceive tool actions as less costly in terms of movement time than they actually are (Experiment 1) and decide to use a tool even when it objectively provides less time-based benefits than using the hands (Experiment 2). Taken together, the data suggest that people overestimate the benefits provided by tool use.

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