Observed motor actions affect valence judgments

Juanma de la FuenteUniversity of Granada, Spain
Daniel CasasantoUniversity of Chicago, IL
Julio SantiagoUniversity of Granada, Spain


Right-handers tend to associate “good” with the right side of space and “bad” with the left. This implicit association appears to arise from the way people perform actions, more or less fluently, with their right and left hands. Here we tested whether observing manual actions performed with greater or lesser fluency can affect observers’ space-valence associations. In two experiments, we assigned one participant (the actor) to perform a bimanual fine motor task while another participant (the observer) watched. Actors were assigned to wear a ski glove on either the right or left hand, which made performing the actions on this side of space disfluent. In Experiment 1, observers stood behind the actors, sharing their spatial perspective. After motor training, both actors and observers tended to associate “good” with the side of the actors’ free hand and “bad” with the side of the gloved hand. To determine whether observers’ space-valence associations were computed from their own perspectives or the actors’, in Experiment 2 we asked the observer to stand face-to-face with the actor, reversing their spatial perspectives. After motor training, both actors and observers associated “good” with the side of space where disfluent actions had occurred from their own egocentric spatial perspectives; if “good” was associated with the actor’s right-hand side it was likely to be associated with the observer’s left-hand side. Results show that vicarious experiences of motor fluency can shape valence judgments, and that observers spontaneously encode the locations of fluent and disfluent actions in egocentric spatial coordinates.


Observed motor actions affect valence judgments (858 KB)

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