Experimental Brain Research

, 213:371 | Cite as

Habitual and goal-directed factors in (everyday) object handling

  • Oliver HerbortEmail author
  • Martin V. Butz
Research Article


A habitual and a goal-directed system contribute to action selection in the human CNS. We examined to which extent both systems interact when selecting grasps for handling everyday objects. In Experiment 1, an upright or inverted cup had to be rotated or moved. To-be-rotated upright cups were more frequently grasped with a thumb-up grasp, which is habitually used to hold an upright cup, than inverted cups, which are not associated with a specific grasp. Additionally, grasp selection depended on the overarching goal of the movement sequence (rotation vs. transport) according to the end-state comfort principle. This shows that the habitual system and the goal-directed system both contribute to grasp selection. Experiment 2 revealed that this object-orientation-dependent grasp selection was present for movements of the dominant- and non-dominant hand. In Experiment 3, different everyday objects had to be moved or rotated. Only if different orientations of an object were associated with different habitual grasps, the grasp selection depended on the object orientation. Additionally, grasp selection was affected by the horizontal direction of the forthcoming movement. In sum, the experiments provide evidence that the interaction between the habitual and the goal-directed system determines grasp selection for the interaction with every-day objects.


Habitual system Goal-directed system Grasping End-state comfort effect Object handling 

Supplementary material

221_2011_2787_MOESM1_ESM.docx (51 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 51 kb)
221_2011_2787_MOESM2_ESM.docx (551 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 551 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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