Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 81, Issue 5, pp 1454–1463 | Cite as

Visual salience, not the graspable part of a pictured eating utensil, grabs attention

  • Aiping XiongEmail author
  • Robert W. Proctor
  • Howard N. Zelaznik


Three experiments used compatible and incompatible mappings of images of eating utensils to test the hypothesis that these images activate affordances for grasping with the corresponding hand when the required response is a key-press. In Experiment 1, stimuli were photographs of a plastic spoon oriented on the horizontal axis, with the handle location varying randomly between left and right. Participants were instructed to respond to the handle or the tip, with a compatible mapping in one trial block and an incompatible mapping in another. A benefit for the compatible mapping was evident when the spoon tip was defined as relevant and a smaller cost when the handle was defined as relevant, suggesting a larger influence of the tip than the handle. In Experiment 2, the stimuli were photographs of bamboo chopsticks, for which the functional end is pointed and the graspable end is squared. East Asian participants familiar with chopsticks showed compatibility effects that did not differ significantly between the two ends. In Experiment 3, the chopstick handles were colored red to make them relatively more distinct than the tips. Both East Asian participants (Experiment 3B) and a more diverse sample (Experiment 3A) showed a benefit of the compatible mapping when the handle was defined as task relevant but not when the functional end was. Altogether, the results provide evidence that left-right location of a visually salient feature is the main factor driving these compatibility effects, rather than the automatic activation of a grasping affordance.


Grasping affordance Spatial compatibility Object-based correspondence effect 


Author Note

We thank Jennifer Cathlyn Chan and Yaqi Xu for assistance in conducting the experiments.


  1. Ansorge, U., & Wühr, P. (2004). A response-discrimination account of the Simon effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 30, 365–377.Google Scholar
  2. Bub, D. N., Masson, M. E. J., & Kumar, R. (2018). Time course of motor affordances evoked by pictured objects and words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 44, 53-68.Google Scholar
  3. Cho, D. T., & Proctor, R. W. (2010). The object-based Simon effect: Grasping affordance or relative location of the graspable part? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 36, 853-861. Google Scholar
  4. Cho, D. T., & Proctor, R. W. (2011). Correspondence effects for objects with opposing left and right protrusions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 37, 737-749.Google Scholar
  5. Cisek, P. (2007). Cortical mechanisms of action selection: The affordance competition hypothesis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B: Biological Sciences, 362, 1585–1599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cousineau, D. (2005). Confidence intervals in within-subject designs: A simpler solution to Loftus and Masson’s method. Tutorial in Quantitative Methods for Psychology, 1, 42-45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Faul, F., Erdfelder, E., Lang, A. G., & Buchner, A. (2007). G* Power 3: A flexible statistical power analysis program for the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 175-191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  9. Gomez, M. A., Skiba, R. M., & Snow, J. C. (2018). Graspable objects grab attention more than images do. Psychological Science, 29, 206-218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kornblum, S., Hasbroucq, T., & Osman, A. (1990). Dimensional overlap: Cognitive basis for stimulus–response compatibility—A model and taxonomy. Psychological Review, 97, 253–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kourtis, D., & Vingerhoets, G. (2015). Perceiving objects by their function: An EEG study on feature saliency and prehensile affordances. Biological Psychology, 110, 138-147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Masson, M. E. J. (2018). Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 72, 219-228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Pappas, Z. (2014). Dissociating Simon and affordance compatibility effects: Silhouettes and photographs. Cognition, 133, 716–728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Pellicano, A., Iani, C., Borghi, A. M., Rubichi, S., & Nicoletti, R. (2010). Simon-like and functional affordance effects with tools: The effects of object perceptual discrimination and object action state. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63, 2190–2201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Pellicano, A., Koch, I., & Binkofski, F. (2017). Location-coding account versus affordance-activation account in handle-to-hand correspondence effects: Evidence of Simon-like effects based on the coding of action direction. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 43, 1647-1666.Google Scholar
  16. Phillips, J. C., & Ward, R. (2002). S-R correspondence effects of irrelevant visual affordance: Time course and specificity of response activation. Visual Cognition, 9, 540–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Proctor, R. W., Lien, M. C., & Thompson, L. (2017). Do silhouettes and photographs produce fundamentally different object-based correspondence effects? Cognition, 169, 91-101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Proctor, R. W., & Miles, J. D. (2014). Does the concept of affordance add anything to explanations of stimulus-response compatibility effects? In B. H. Ross (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 60; pp. 227-266). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  19. Proctor, R. W., & Vu, K.-P. L. (2006). Stimulus–response compatibility principles: Data, theory, and application. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Proctor, R. W., Wang, D. Y. D., & Pick, D. F. (2004). Stimulus-response compatibility with wheel-rotation responses: Will an incompatible response coding be used when a compatible coding is possible? Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11, 841-847.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Shaffer, L. H. (1965). Choice reaction with variable S-R mapping. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 284–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Skiba, R. M., & Snow, J. C. (2016). Attentional capture for tool images is driven by the head end of the tool, not the handle. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 78, 2500–2514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Song, X., Chen, J., & Proctor, R. W. (2014). Correspondence effects with torches: Grasping affordance or visual feature asymmetry? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 67, 665–675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Stoffer, T. H. (1991). Attentional focussing and spatial stimulus-response compatibility. Psychological Research, 53, 127–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Tucker, M., & Ellis, R. (1998). On the relations between seen objects and components of potential actions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 830–846.Google Scholar
  26. Vu, K. L., & Proctor, R. W. (2004). Mixing compatible and incompatible mappings: Elimination, reduction, and enhancement of spatial compatibility effects. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 57A, 539–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Xiong, A., & Proctor, R. W. (2018). The role of task space in action control: Evidence from research on instructions. In K. D. Federmeier (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 69; pp. 325-364). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  28. Yu, A. B., Abrams, R. A., & Zacks, J. M. (2014). Limits on action priming by pictures of objects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40, 1861-1873.Google Scholar
  29. Zelaznik, H. N., & Forney, L. A. (2016). Action-specific judgment, not perception: Fitts’ law performance is related to estimates of target width only when participants are given a performance score. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 78, 1744-1754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aiping Xiong
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robert W. Proctor
    • 2
  • Howard N. Zelaznik
    • 3
  1. 1.College of Information Sciences and TechnologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychological SciencesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.Health and Kinesiology DepartmentPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations