Psychological Research

, Volume 78, Issue 4, pp 465–482 | Cite as

A test of the embodied simulation theory of object perception: potentiation of responses to artifacts and animals

  • Heath E. Matheson
  • Nicole C. White
  • Patricia A. McMullen
Original Article


Theories of embodied object representation predict a tight association between sensorimotor processes and visual processing of manipulable objects. Previous research has shown that object handles can ‘potentiate’ a manual response (i.e., button press) to a congruent location. This potentiation effect is taken as evidence that objects automatically evoke sensorimotor simulations in response to the visual presentation of manipulable objects. In the present series of experiments, we investigated a critical prediction of the theory of embodied object representations that potentiation effects should be observed with manipulable artifacts but not non-manipulable animals. In four experiments we show that (a) potentiation effects are observed with animals and artifacts; (b) potentiation effects depend on the absolute size of the objects and (c) task context influences the presence/absence of potentiation effects. We conclude that potentiation effects do not provide evidence for embodied object representations, but are suggestive of a more general stimulus–response compatibility effect that may depend on the distribution of attention to different object features.


Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Attentional Bias Simon Effect Compatibility Effect Object Category 
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.


Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest in the preparation of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heath E. Matheson
    • 1
  • Nicole C. White
    • 2
  • Patricia A. McMullen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyDalhousie University, Life Sciences CenterHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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