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Joint Action Goals Reduce Visuomotor Interference Effects from a Partner’s Incongruent Actions (2019)

by Sam Clarke, Luke McEllin, Anna Francová, Marcell Székely, Stephen A. Butterfill and John Michael

---Scientific Reports 9(1), pp. 1-9
--- links: [pdf] external [doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-52124-6]


Joint actions often require agents to track others’ actions while planning and executing physically incongruent actions of their own. Previous research has indicated that this can lead to visuomotor interference effects when it occurs outside of joint action. How is this avoided or overcome in joint actions? We hypothesized that when joint action partners represent their actions as interrelated components of a plan to bring about a joint action goal, each partner’s movements need not be represented in relation to distinct, incongruent proximal goals. Instead they can be represented in relation to a single proximal goal – especially if the movements are, or appear to be, mechanically linked to a more distal joint action goal. To test this, we implemented a paradigm in which participants produced finger movements that were either congruent or incongruent with those of a virtual partner, and either with or without a joint action goal (the joint flipping of a switch, which turned on two light bulbs). Our findings provide partial support for the hypothesis that visuomotor interference effects can be reduced when two physically incongruent actions are represented as mechanically interdependent contributions to a joint action goal.