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Action matters: The role of action plans and object affordances in selection for action

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In a series of three experiments requiring selection of real objects for action, we investigated whether characteristics of the planned action and/or the ''affordances'' of target and distractor objects affected interference caused by distractors. In all ofthe experiments, the target object was selectedon the basis of colour and was presented alone or with a distractor object. We examined the effect of type of response (button press, grasping, or pointing), object affordances (compatibility with the acting hand, affordances for grasping or pointing), and target/distractor positions (left or right) on distractor interference (reaction time differences between trials with and without distractors). Different patterns of distractor interference were associated with different motor responses. In the button-press conditions of each experiment, distractor interference was largely determined by perceptual salience (e.g., proximity to initial visual fixation). In contrast, in tasks requiring action upon the objects in the array, distractors with handles caused greater interference than those without handles, irrespective of whether the intended action was pointing or grasping. Additionally, handled distractors were relatively more salient when their affordances for grasping were strong (handle direction compatible with the acting hand) than when affordances were weak. These data suggest that attentional highlighting of specific target and distractor features is a function of intended actions.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-05-01

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