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Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 237, Issue 2, pp 363–375 | Cite as

The dominant role of functional action representation in object recognition

  • Long Ni
  • Ye LiuEmail author
  • Wenyuan Yu
Research Article

Abstract

Action representation of manipulable objects has been found to be involved in object recognition. Recently, studies have indicated the existence of two distinct action systems: functional action specifying how to use an object and structural action concerning how to grasp an object. Despite evidence revealing the systems’ anatomical and functional differences, few preceding studies have dissociated their respective roles in object recognition. The present study aimed to tease apart their roles in the recognition of manipulable objects with a priming paradigm. Specifically, we used static stimuli (photos, Experiments 1 and 2) and dynamic stimuli (video clips, Experiments 3 and 4) depicting functional and structural action hand gestures as primes and measured the magnitude of functional and structural action priming effect in object recognition. We found that static and dynamic priming stimuli induced a robust action priming effect only for functional action prime-target pairs. Naming latencies of the target objects were shorter when functional action representations of the prime and target were congruent than when they were incongruent. Moreover, as compared to static priming photos, dynamic priming stimuli induced a larger functional action priming effect. By contrast, neither static nor dynamic priming stimuli elicited a structural action priming effect. Behavioral data from our four experiments provide consistent evidence of the dominant role of functional action representation in the recognition of manipulable objects, suggesting that action knowledge regarding how to use rather than grasp an object is more likely an intrinsic component of objects’ conceptual representation.

Keywords

Functional action Structural action Priming effect Object recognition 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the grant of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant nos. 61632004 and 61773379) and the grant of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China in project Crossmodal Learning (NSFC61621136008/DFGTRR-169).

Author Contributions

LN, YL, and WYY designed the experiments. LN collected and analyzed the data. LN, YL, and WYY wrote the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial and non-financial interests.

Supplementary material

221_2018_5426_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (10.8 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 11038 KB)

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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science, Institute of PsychologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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