An Attentional Mechanism for Selecting Appropriate Actions Afforded by Graspable Objects
An object may afford a number of different actions. In this article, we show that an attentional mechanism inhibits competing motor programs that could elicit erroneous actions. Participants made a speeded key press to categorize the second of two successively presented door handles that were rotated at varying orientations relative to one another. Their responding hand was compatible or incompatible with the graspable part of the door handles (rightward or leftward facing). Compatible responses were faster than incompatible responses if the two handles shared an identical orientation, but they were slower if the two handles were aligned at slightly dissimilar orientations. Such suppressive surround effects are hallmarks of attentional processing in the visual domain, but they have never been observed behaviorally in the motor domain. This finding delineates a common mechanism involved in two of the most important functions of the brain: processing sensory data and preparing actions based on that information.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: December 1, 2008