Journal article

Imitation of hand and tool actions is effector-independent

Following the theoretical notion that tools often extend one's body, in the present study, we investigated whether imitation of hand or tool actions is modulated by effector-specific information. Subjects performed grasping actions toward an object with either a handheld tool or their right hand. Actions were initiated in response to pictures representing a grip at an object that could be congruent or incongruent with the required action (grip-type congruency). Importantly, actions could be cued by means of a tool cue, a hand cue, and a symbolic cue (effector-type congruency). For both hand and tool actions, an action congruency effect was observed, reflected in faster reaction times if the observed grip type was congruent with the required movement. However, neither hand actions nor tool actions were differentially affected by the effector represented in the picture (i.e., when performing a tool action, the action congruency effect was similar for tool cues and hand cues). This finding suggests that imitation of hand and tool actions is effector-independent and thereby supports generalist rather than specialist theories of imitation.


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