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The role of appearance and motion in action prediction


We used a novel stimulus set of human and robot actions to explore the role of humanlike appearance and motion in action prediction. Participants viewed videos of familiar actions performed by three agents: human, android and robot, the former two sharing human appearance, the latter two nonhuman motion. In each trial, the video was occluded for 400 ms. Participants were asked to determine whether the action continued coherently (in-time) after occlusion. The timing at which the action continued was early, late, or in-time (100, 700 or 400 ms after the start of occlusion). Task performance interacted with the observed agent. For early continuations, accuracy was highest for human, lowest for robot actions. For late continuations, the pattern was reversed. Both android and human conditions differed significantly from the robot condition. Given the robot and android conditions had the same kinematics, the visual form of the actor appears to affect action prediction. We suggest that the selection of the internal sensorimotor model used for action prediction is influenced by the observed agent’s appearance.

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SIAD was developed with support from the Kavli Institute of Brain and Mind (Innovative Research Award to APS). The research was additional supported by California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) Strategic Research Opportunities Program (CSRO), and the Hellman Fellowship Program. WS received funding from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; Project: STA 1076/1-1). Ulrike Riedel and Marcus Daum assisted in data collection. We thank Thierry Chaminade, Wolfgang Prinz, Hiroshi Ishiguro and students and staff at the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University.

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Correspondence to Ayse Pinar Saygin.

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Saygin, A.P., Stadler, W. The role of appearance and motion in action prediction. Psychological Research 76, 388–394 (2012).

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  • Humanoid Robot
  • Artificial Agent
  • Biological Motion
  • Android
  • Action Prediction