Action-effect binding by observational learning
SourcePsychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18, 5, (2011), pp. 1022-1028
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC CO
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control; DI-BCB_DCC_Theme 2: Perception, Action and Control
The acquisition of bidirectional action–effect associations plays a central role in the ability to intentionally control actions. Humans learn about actions not only through active experience, but also through observing the actions of others. In Experiment 1, we examined whether action–effect associations can be acquired by observational learning. To this end, participants observed how a model repeatedly pressed two buttons during an observation phase. Each of the buttonpresses led to a specific tone (action effect). In a subsequent test phase, the tones served as target stimuli to which the participants had to respond with buttonpresses. Reaction times were shorter if the stimulus–response mapping in the test phase was compatible with the action–effect association in the observation phase. Experiment 2 excluded the possibility that the impact of perceived action effects on own actions was driven merely by an association of spatial features with the particular tones. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the presence of an agent is necessary to acquire novel action–effect associations through observation. Altogether, the study provides evidence for the claim that bidirectional action–effect associations can be acquired by observational learning. Our findings are discussed in the context of the idea that the acquisition of action–effect associations through observation is an important cognitive mechanism subserving the human ability for social learning.
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