, Volume 72, Issue 6, pp 1437-1443

Implied body action directs spatial attention


Research confirms that the body influences perception, but little is known about the embodiment of attention. We investigated whether the implied actions of others direct spatial attention, using a lateralized covert-orienting task with nonpredictive central cues depicting static, right/left-facing bodies poised in midaction. Validity effects (decreased response times for validly compared with invalidly cued trials) indicated orienting in the direction of the implied action. In Experiment 1, we compared action (running, throwing) with nonaction (standing) cues. Only the action cues produced validity effects, suggesting that implied action directs attention. The action cues produced faster responses overall, suggesting that action cues prime motor responses. In Experiment 2, we determined whether action cues shifted attention in a specific direction rather than to a general side of space: Two cues had similar action speed and motor effort but differed in implied direction (jumping, vertical; throwing, horizontal). Validity effects were found only for the throw cues for which the implied motion direction was consistent with lateralized target locations. In Experiment 3, we compared block-like stimuli to the throwing action stimuli to examine whether lower level perceptual information could account for the attention effects alone. Validity effects were found only for the human-action stimuli. Overall, the results suggest that predictive simulations of action shift attention in action-consistent directions.

This research was supported by a Partners-in-Scholarship grant awarded to the first two authors from the University of Denver.