, Volume 225, Issue 4, pp 579-588
Date: 30 Jan 2013

Higher-order action planning for individual and joint object manipulations

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Many actions involve multiple action steps, which raises the question how far ahead people plan when they perform such actions. Here, we examined higher-order planning for action sequences and whether people planned similarly or differently when acting individually or together with an action partner. For individual performances, participants picked up an object with one hand and passed it to their other hand before placing it onto a target location. For joint performances, they picked up the object and handed it to their action partner, who placed it onto the target location. Each object could be grasped at only two possible grasping positions, implying that the first selected grasp on the object determined the postures for the rest of the action sequence. By varying the height of the target shelf, we tested whether people planned ahead and modulated their grasp choices to avoid uncomfortable end postures. Our results indicated that participants engaged in higher-order planning, but needed task experience before demonstrating such planning during both individual and joint performances. The rate of learning was similar in the two conditions, and participants transferred experience from individual to joint performance. Our results indicate similarity in mechanisms underlying individual and joint action sequence planning.

Marlene Meyer and Robrecht P. R. D. van der Wel: equal contributions.