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The link between perception and action allows us to interact fluently with the world. Objects which 'afford' an action elicit a visuomotor response, facilitating compatible responses. In addition, positioning objects to interact with one another appears to facilitate grouping, indicated by patients with extinction being better able to identify interacting objects (e.g. a corkscrew going towards the top of a wine bottle) than the same objects when positioned incorrectly for action (Riddoch, Humphreys, Edwards, Baker, & Willson, Nature Neuroscience, 6, 82-89, 2003). Here, we investigate the effect of action relations on the perception of normal participants. We found improved identification of briefly-presented objects when in correct versus incorrect co-locations for action. For the object that would be 'active' in the interaction (the corkscrew), this improvement was enhanced when it was oriented for use by the viewer's dominant hand. In contrast, the position-related benefit for the 'passive' object was stronger when the objects formed an action-related pair (corkscrew and bottle) compared with an unrelated pair (corkscrew and candle), and it was reduced when spatial cues disrupted grouping between the objects. We propose that these results indicate two separate effects of action relations on normal perception: a visuomotor response to objects which strongly afford an action; and a grouping effect between objects which form action-related pairs.

Original publication




Journal article


Atten Percept Psychophys

Publication Date





597 - 612


Association Learning, Attention, Cues, Female, Humans, Male, Orientation, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Psychomotor Performance, Reaction Time, Young Adult