Do already grasped objects activate motor affordances?

  • Cristina Iani
  • Luca Ferraro
  • Natale Vincenzo Maiorana
  • Vittorio Gallese
  • Sandro Rubichi
Original Article


This study investigated whether in a stimulus–response compatibility (SRC) task affordance effects in response to picture of graspable objects emerge when these objects appear as already grasped. It also assessed whether the observed effects could be explained as due to spatial compatibility between the most salient part in the object/display and the hand of response rather than to action potentiation. To this aim, we conducted three behavioural experiments in which participants were required to discriminate the vertical orientation (upright vs. inverted) of an object presented in the centre of the screen, while ignoring the right–left orientation of its handle. The object could be presented alone, as already grasped, as partially masked (Experiment 1) or with a human hand close to its graspable side (Experiment 2). In addition, to assess the role of perceptual salience, the object could be presented with a human hand or a non-biological (a geometrical shape) distractor located opposite to the object’s graspable side. Results showed faster responses when the object’s handle was located on the same side of the responding hand with a larger effect when upright objects were shown as already grasped (Experiment 1) or when a hand was displayed close to its handle (Experiment 2), and a smaller reversed effect when the hand or the geometrical shape was located opposite to the handled side (Experiment 3). We interpreted these findings as indicating that handle orientation effects emerging in SRC tasks may result from the interplay between motor affordance and spatial compatibility mechanisms.



This work was supported by a grant (Fondo di Ateneo FAR 2014) from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia to Cristina Iani.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

The manuscript does not report clinical studies or patient data. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study fulfilled the ethical standard procedure recommended by the Italian Association of Psychology (AIP). It was approved by the Department of Communication and Economics of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Communication and EconomicsUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaReggio EmiliaItaly
  2. 2.Center for Neuroscience and NeurotechnologyUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaModenaItaly
  3. 3.Department of NeuroscienceUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Education and Human SciencesUniversity of Modena and Reggio EmiliaReggio EmiliaItaly

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