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The effects of our movements become associated with the motor commands that generate those movements (Hommel et al., 2001), and later exposure to (i.e., perception of) those effects (e.g., being a passenger in a car) primes us to make those same types of movements. To date, these experiments have used discrete stimuli and discrete responses. The present experiment investigated whether or not response-effect pairings could be acquired during a continuous control task, and whether one can learn such pairings, simply by observing another person do the control task. One of the participants used the A and L key on a keyboard to keep a circle stimulus inside a rectangle for three minutes, while the other participant (i.e., Observers) observed them. Each key press produced a clearly discernible tone as long as the key was pressed. Half of the observers sat next to the controller and were able to observe the key-presses (i.e., actions) and dot movements (i.e. effects) the controller made—Full Observers. The other half had their view of the controller’s hand obstructed, in the attempt to deny them access to the controller’s actions—Partial Observers. All participants completed stimulus-compatibility reaction-time tasks to test whether dot movements or tones primed their actions, both before and after the control phase. Reaction times for Target-Prime pairings that were congruent with those in the control task were subtracted from those that were incongruent. These priming scores underwent a Session (i.e., preand post—within) by Prime Type (i.e., dot motion or tones—within) by Condition (i.e., Controllers, Full Observers, and Partial Observers—between) mixed factors ANOVA, which revealed a marginally significant Session X Condition interaction in which priming scores became larger for Controllers across sessions while the opposite occurred for both types of Observers. Contrary to Jordan and Hunsinger (2008), the finding that Full Observers performed more like Partial Observers than Controllers challenges the idea that one can learn the action effect contingencies produced by another, simply through observation.
Cam, Yonca and Smullin, MaKayla, "Learning Continuous Action-Effect Contingencies through Observation" (2020). Psychology. 13.