Psychological Research

, Volume 72, Issue 4, pp 461–472 | Cite as

Self produced and observed actions influence emotion: the roles of action fluency and eye gaze

  • Amy E. HayesEmail author
  • Matthew A. Paul
  • Boukje Beuger
  • Steven P. Tipper
Original Article


Affective responses to objects can be influenced by cognitive processes such as perceptual fluency. Here we investigated whether the quality of motor interaction with an object influences affective response to the object. Participants grasped and moved objects using either a fluent action or a non-fluent action (avoiding an obstacle). Liking ratings were higher for objects in the fluent condition. Two further studies investigated whether the fluency of another person’s actions influences affective response. Observers watched movie clips of the motor actions described above, in conditions where the observed actor could be seen to be looking towards the grasped object, or where the actor’s head and gaze were not visible. Two results were observed: First, when the actor’s gaze cannot be seen, liking ratings of the objects are reduced. Second, action fluency of observed actions does influence liking ratings, but only when the actor’s gaze towards the object is visible. These findings provide supporting evidence for the important role of observed eye gaze in action simulation, and demonstrate that non-emotive actions can evoke empathic states in observers.


Positive Affect Affective Response Superior Temporal Sulcus Stimulus Object Affective Rating 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Amano, S., Kezuka E., & Yamamoto, A. (2004). Infant shifting attention from an adult’s face to an adult’s hand: A precursor of joint attention. Infant Behaviour & Development, 27, 64–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baron-Cohen, S. (1995). Mindblindness: An essay on autism and theory of mind. Boston: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  3. Baron-Cohen, S., Campbell, R., Karmiloff-Smith, A., Grant, J., & Walker, J. (1995). Are children with autism blind to the mentalistic significance of the eyes? British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 13(4), 379–398.Google Scholar
  4. Bayliss, A. P., Frischen, A., Fenske, M. J., & Tipper, S. P. (2007). Affective evaluations of objects are influenced by observed gaze direction and emotional expression. Cognition. 104, 644–653.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bayliss, A. P., Paul, M. A., Cannon, P. R., & Tipper, S. P. (2006). Gaze cueing and affective judgments of objects: I like what you look at. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 13(6), 1061–1066.Google Scholar
  6. Beilock, S. L., Holt L. E. (2007). Embodied preference judgments—Can likeability be driven by the motor system? Psychological Science, 18(1), 51–57.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berlyne, D. E. (1974). Studies in the new experimental aesthetics: Steps toward an objective psychology of aesthetic appreciation. Washington: Hemisphere Co.Google Scholar
  8. Blakemore, S. J., & Decety, J. (2001). From the perception of action to the understanding of intention. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2, 561–567.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Buccino, G., Binkofski, F., Fink, G. R., Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V., Seitz, R. J., Zilles, K., Rizzolatti, G., & Freund, H. J. (2001). Action observation activates premotor and parietal areas in a somatotopic manner: An fMRI study. European Journal of Neuroscience, 13, 400–404.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Castiello, U. (2003). Understanding other people’s actions: Intention and attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29, 416–430.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Decety, J., & Jackson, P. L. (2004). The functional architecture of human empathy. Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews, 3(2), 71–100.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dimberg, U. (1982). Facial Reactions to Facial Expressions. Psychophysiology, 19(6), 643–647.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dimberg, U., Thunberg, M., & Elmehed, K. (2000). Unconscious facial reactions to emotional facial expressions. Psychological Science, 11(1), 86–89.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. di Pellegrino, G., Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Gallese, V., & Rizzolatti, G. (1992). Understanding motor events: A neurophysiological study. Experimental Brain Research, 91, 176–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Döring, S. A. (2003). Explaining action by emotion. Philosophical Quarterly, 53, 214–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., Pavesi, G., & Rizzolatti, G. (1995). Motor facilitation during action observation—A magnetic stimulation study. Journal of Neurophysiology, 73(6), 2608–2611.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Fenske, M. J., Raymond, J. E., Kessler, K., Westerby, N., & Tipper, S. P. (2005). Attentional inhibition has social-emotional consequences for unfamiliar faces. Psychological Science, 16, 753–758.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Forster, J. (2004). How body feedback influences consumers’ evaluation of products. Journal of Consumer psychology, 14, 416–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Friesen, C. K., & Kingstone, A. (1998). The eyes have it! Reflexive orienting is triggered by nonpredictive gaze. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 5, 490–495.Google Scholar
  20. Gallese, V., & Goldman, A. (1998). Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind-reading. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2(12), 493–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gallese, V., Fadiga, L., Fogassi, L., & Rizzolatti, G. (1996). Action recognition in the premotor cortex. Brain, 119, 593–609.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  23. Grèzes, J., Armony, J. L., Rowe, J., & Passingham, R. E. (2003). Activations related to “mirror” and “canonical” neurones in the human brain: An fMRI study. Neuroimage, 18, 928–937.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hood, B. M., Willen, J. D., & Driver, J. (1998). Adult’s eyes trigger shifts of attention in human infants. Psychological Science, 9, 131–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jacoby, L. L., & Dallas, M. (1981). On the relationship between autobiographical memory and perceptual learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: general, 110, 306–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jellema, T., Baker, C. I., Wicker, B., & Perrett, D. I. (2000). Neural representation for the perception of the intentionality of actions. Brain and Cognition, 44, 280–302.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Morales, M., Mundy, P., Delgado, C. E. F., Yale, M., Neal, R., & Schwartz, H. K. (2000). Gaze following, temperament, and language development in 6-month-olds: A replication and extension. Infant Behavior & Development, 23, 231–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Morrison, I., Lloyd, D., di Pellegrino, G., & Roberts, N. (2004). Vicarious responses to pain in anterior cingulate cortex: Is empathy a multisensory issue? Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 4(2), 270–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pierno, A. C., Becchio, C., Wall, M. B., Smith, A. T., Turella, L., & Castiello, U. (2006). When gaze turns into grasp. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18(12), 2130–2137.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Reber, R., Winkielman, P., & Schwartz, N. (1998). Effects of perceptual fluency on affective judgements. Psychological Research, 9, 45–48.Google Scholar
  31. Rizzolatti, G., Fadiga, L., Gallese, L., & Fogassi, L. (1996). Premotor cortex and the recognition of motor actions. Cognitive Brain Research, 3, 131–141.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sander, D., Grandjean, D., Pourtois, G., Schwartz, S., Seghier, M. L., Scherer, K. R., & Vuilleumier, P. (2005). Emotion and attention interactions in social cognition: Brain regions involved in processing anger prosody. Neuroimage, 28, 848–858.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shimojo, S., Simion, C., Shimojo, E., & Scheier, C. (2003). Gaze bias both reflects and influences preference. Nature Neuroscience, 6(12), 1317–1322.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sonnby-Borgström, M. (2002). Automatic mimicry reactions as related to differences in emotional empathy. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 43(5), 433–443.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Strack, F., Martin, L. L., & Stepper, S. (1988). Inhibiting and facilitating conditions of the human smile: A non-obtrusive test of the facial feedback hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 768–777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tipper, S. P., Howard, L., & Jackson, S. (1997). Selective reaching to grasp: Evidence for distractor interference effects. Visual Cognition, 4, 1–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Van den Bergh, O., Vrana, S., & Eelen, P. (1990). Letters from the heart: Affective categorization of letter combinations in typists and nontypists. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 16, 1153–1161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Whittlesea, B. W. A. (1993). Illusions of familiarity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 19, 12235–1253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Winkielman, P., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2001). Mind at ease puts a smile on the face: Psychophysiological evidence that processing facilitation increases positive affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 989–1000.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology. 9(2), 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy E. Hayes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew A. Paul
    • 2
  • Boukje Beuger
    • 2
  • Steven P. Tipper
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Sport, Health and Exercise SciencesUniversity of WalesBangorUK
  2. 2.Centre for Clinical and Cognitive NeuroscienceUniversity of WalesBangorUK

Personalised recommendations