The eye in hand: predicting others' behavior by integrating multiple sources of information

The ability to predict the outcome of other beings' actions confers significant adaptive advantages. Experiments have assessed that human action observation can use multiple information sources, but it is currently unknown how they are integrated and how conflicts between them are resolved. To address this issue, we designed an action observation paradigm requiring the integration of multiple, potentially conflicting sources of evidence about the action target: the actor's gaze direction, hand preshape, and arm trajectory, and their availability and relative uncertainty in time. In two experiments, we analyzed participants' action prediction ability by using eye tracking and behavioral measures. The results show that the information provided by the actor's gaze affected participants' explicit predictions. However, results also show that gaze information was disregarded as soon as information on the actor's hand preshape was available, and this latter information source had widespread effects on participants' prediction ability. Furthermore, as the action unfolded in time, participants relied increasingly more on the arm movement source, showing sensitivity to its increasing informativeness. Therefore, the results suggest that the brain forms a robust estimate of the actor's motor intention by integrating multiple sources of information. However, when informative motor cues such as a preshaped hand with a given grip are available and might help in selecting action targets, people tend to capitalize on such motor cues, thus turning out to be more accurate and fast in inferring the object to be manipulated by the other's hand.

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Ambrosini, Ettore
Pezzulo, Giovanni
Costantini, Marcello
American Physiological Society [etc.], [Bethesda, MD, etc.], Stati Uniti d'America
Journal of neurophysiology 113 (2015): 2271–2279. doi:10.1152/jn.00464.2014
info:cnr-pdr/source/autori:Ambrosini, Ettore; Pezzulo, Giovanni; Costantini, Marcello/titolo:The eye in hand: predicting others' behavior by integrating multiple sources of information/doi:10.1152/jn.00464.2014/rivista:Journal of neurophysiology/anno:2015
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