Eye movements may cause motor contagion effects

Constable, Merryn, de Grosbois, John, Lung, Tiffany, Tremblay, Luc, Pratt, Jay and Welsh, Timothy N. (2017) Eye movements may cause motor contagion effects. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 24 (3). pp. 835-841. ISSN 1069-9384

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-016-1177-4


When a person executes a movement, the movement is more errorful while observing another person’s actions that are incongruent rather than congruent with the executed action. This effect is known as “motor contagion”. Accounts of this effect are often grounded in simulation mechanisms: increased movement error emerges because the motor codes associated with observed actions compete with motor codes of the goal action. It is also possible, however, that the increased movement error is linked to eye movements that are executed simultaneously with the hand movement because oculomotor and manual-motor systems are highly interconnected. In the present study, participants performed a motor contagion task in which they executed horizontal arm movements while observing a model making either vertical (incongruent) or horizontal (congruent) movements under three conditions: no instruction, maintain central fixation, or track the model’s hand with the eyes. A significant motor contagion-like effect was only found in the ‘track’ condition. Thus, ‘motor contagion’ in the present task may be an artifact of simultaneously executed incongruent eye movements. These data are discussed in the context of stimulation and associative learning theories, and raise eye movements as a critical methodological consideration for future work on motor contagion.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: motor contagion, eye movements, simulation theory, joint action, action imitation
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2020 11:13
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 19:31
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/42389

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