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Motor contagion: goal-directed actions are more contagious than non-goal-directed actions

Motor contagion: goal-directed actions are more contagious than non-goal-directed actions

Experimental Psychology 58(1): 71-78

Recent theories posit a mirror-matching system mapping observed actions onto one's own motor system. Determining whether this system makes a distinction between goal-directed and non-goal-directed actions is crucial for the understanding of its function. The present study tested whether motor interference between observed and executed actions, which is thought to be an index of perceptual-motor matching, depends on the presence of goals in the observed action. Participants executed sinusoidal arm movements while observing a video of another person making similar or different movements. In certain conditions, elements representing goals for the observed movement were superimposed on the video displays. Overall, observing an incongruent movement interfered with movement execution. This interference was markedly increased when the observed incongruent movement was directed toward a visible goal, suggesting a greater perceptual-motor matching during observation of goal-directed versus non-goal-directed actions. This finding supports an action-reconstruction model of mirror system function rather than the traditional direct-matching model.

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Accession: 054475851

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PMID: 20494864

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