Predicting actions before they occur

TitlePredicting actions before they occur
Publication TypeCBMM Memos
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsVaziri-Pashkam, M
Secondary AuthorsCormiea, S
Tertiary AuthorsNakayama, K
Date Published10/27/2015
KeywordsAction anticipation, Action reading, Biological motion, Social interaction
Humans are experts at reading others’ actions in social contexts. They efficiently process others’ movements in real-time to predict intended goals. Here we designed a two-person reaching task to investigate real-time body reading in a naturalistic setting. Two Subjects faced each other separated by a plexiglass screen. One (Attacker) was instructed to tap one of two targets on the screen and the other (Blocker) was told to tap the same target as quickly as possible. Reaction times were fast, much faster than reaction times to a dot projected on the screen moving in the same manner. This suggests Blockers use subtle preparatory movements of Attackers to predict their goal. Next, using video recordings of an Attacker, we showed that removing the preparatory cues slows reaction times and changing them could trick the Blockers to choose the wrong target. We then occluded various body parts of the Attacker and showed that reaction times slow down only when most of the body of the Attacker is occluded. This suggests that preparatory cues are distributed over the body of the Attacker. We saw no evidence of learning during the experiment as reaction times remained constant over the duration of the session. Taken together, these results suggest that in social contexts humans are able to use their knowledge of the biomechanical constraints on the human body to efficiently process preparatory cues from the body of their interaction partner in order to predict their intentions well before movement begins.

CBMM Memo No:  038

Research Area: 

CBMM Relationship: 

  • CBMM Funded