Journal article

Acquiring functional object knowledge through motor imagery?

A widely investigated question in the research on the acquisition of novel functional object representations is the role of the action system. Whereas most studies so far have investigated the role of active action training on the acquisition of object representation, we investigated whether people are able to acquire object representations by just imagining the use of novel objects, given that previous findings suggested that executed and imagined actions share a common representational format. To this end, participants trained the use of novel objects in a motor imagery condition. Training comprised the particular grip applied to the objects and the objects' typical end location. Subsequently, participants' object representations were assessed by means of an object detection task. The results show that participants responded slower when the novel objects were presented at functionally incorrect end locations, indicating that the participants had acquired functional knowledge about object use. Yet, there was no effect of correct versus incorrect grip. Altogether, the findings suggest that motor imagery can facilitate the acquisition of novel object representations, but point also to differences between first-hand action training and training by imagery.


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