Paper in Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics
  • McNair, N.A., Harris, I.M. (2014). The contextual action relationship between a tool and its action recipient modulates their joint perception. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 76 (1) pp. 214-229.

    Facilitatory effects have been noted between tools and the objects that they act upon (their "action recipients") across several paradigms. However, it has not been convincingly established that the motor system is directly involved in the joint visual processing of these object pairings. Here, we used the attentional blink (AB) paradigm to demonstrate privileged access to perceptual awareness for tool-action recipient object pairs and to investigate how motor affordances modulate their joint processing. We demonstrated a reduction in the size of the AB that was greater for congruent tool-action recipient pairings (e.g., hammer-nail) than for incongruent pairings (e.g., scissors-nail). Moreover, the AB was reduced only when action recipients followed their associated tool in the temporal sequence, but not when this order was reversed. Importantly, we also found that the effect was sensitive to manipulations of the motor congruence between the tool and the action recipient. First, we observed a greater reduction in the AB when the tool and action recipient were correctly aligned for action than when the tool was rotated to face away from the action recipient. Second, presenting a different tool as a distractor between the tool and action recipient target objects removed any benefit seen for congruent pairings. This was likely due to interference from the motor properties of the distractor tool that disrupted the motor synergy between the congruent tool and action recipient targets. Overall, these findings demonstrate that the contextual motoric relationship between tools and their action recipients facilitates their visual encoding and access to perceptual awareness.