Higher levels of motor competence are associated with reduced interference in action perception across the lifespan

  • Stephanie Wermelinger
  • Anja Gampe
  • Moritz M. Daum
Original Article


Action perception and action production are tightly linked and elicit bi-directional influences on each other when performed simultaneously. In this study, we investigated whether age-related differences in manual fine-motor competence and/or age affect the (interfering) influence of action production on simultaneous action perception. In a cross-sectional eye-tracking study, participants of a broad age range (N = 181, 20–80 years) observed a manual grasp-and-transport action while performing an additional motor or cognitive distractor task. Action perception was measured via participants’ frequency of anticipatory gaze shifts towards the action goal. Manual fine-motor competence was assessed with the Motor Performance Series. The interference effect in action perception was greater in the motor than the cognitive distractor task. Furthermore, manual fine-motor competence and age in years were both associated with this interference. The better the participants’ manual fine-motor competence and the younger they were, the smaller the interference effect. However, when both influencing factors (age and fine-motor competence) were taken into account, a model including only age-related differences in manual fine-motor competence best fit with our data. These results add to the existing literature that motor competence and its age-related differences influence the interference effects between action perception and production.



While working on her dissertation, Stephanie Wermelinger was a pre-doctoral fellow of the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course (LIFE, http://www.imprs-life.mpg.de; participating institutions: Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, University of Zurich). This project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant number: S-63216-03-01). We thank the editor and reviewers for helpful comments on previous versions of this manuscript. We also thank Jannis Behr for his help with the data collection.

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant number: S-63216-03-01).

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Informed consent

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


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie Wermelinger
    • 1
  • Anja Gampe
    • 1
  • Moritz M. Daum
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Neuroscience Center ZurichUniversity of Zurich and ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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