Action semantics: A unifying conceptual framework for the selective use of multimodal and modality-specific object knowledge
until further notice
SourcePhysics of Life Reviews, 11, 2, (2014), pp. 220-250
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC CO
SW OZ BSI SCP
Physics of Life Reviews
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control; Behaviour Change and Well-being; DI-BCB_DCC_Theme 2: Perception, Action and Control
Our capacity to use tools and objects is often considered one of the hallmarks of the human species. Many objects greatly extend our bodily capabilities to act in the physical world, such as when using a hammer or a saw. In addition, humans have the remarkable capability to use objects in a flexible fashion and to combine multiple objects in complex actions. We prepare coffee, cook dinner and drive our car. In this review we propose that humans have developed declarative and procedural knowledge, i.e. action semantics that enables us to use objects in a meaningful way. A state-of-the-art review of research on object use is provided, involving behavioral, developmental, neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies. We show that research in each of these domains is characterized by similar discussions regarding (1) the role of object affordances, (2) the relation between goals and means in object use and (3) the functional and neural organization of action semantics. We propose a novel conceptual framework of action semantics to address these issues and to integrate the previous findings. We argue that action semantics entails both multimodal object representations and modality-specific sub-systems, involving manipulation knowledge, functional knowledge and representations of the sensory and proprioceptive consequences of object use. Furthermore, we argue that action semantics are hierarchically organized and selectively activated and used depending on the action intention of the actor and the current task context. Our framework presents an integrative account of multiple findings and perspectives on object use that may guide future studies in this interdisciplinary domain.
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