Action Properties of Object Images Facilitate Visual Search

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There is mounting evidence that constraints from action can influence the early stages of object selection, even in the absence of any explicit preparation for action. Here, we examined whether action properties of images can influence visual search, and whether such effects were modulated by hand preference. Observers searched for an oddball target among 3 distractors. The search arrays consisted either of images of graspable “handles” (“action-related” stimuli), or images that were otherwise identical to the handles but in which the semicircular fulcrum element was reoriented so that the stimuli no longer looked like graspable objects (“non-action-related” stimuli). In Experiment 1, right-handed observers, who have been shown previously to prefer to use the right hand over the left for manual tasks, were faster to detect targets in action-related versus non-action-related arrays, and showed a response time (reaction time [RT]) advantage for rightward- versus leftward-oriented action-related handles. In Experiment 2, left-handed observers, who have been shown to use the left and right hands relatively equally in manual tasks, were also faster to detect targets in the action-related versus non-action-related arrays, but RTs were equally fast for rightward- and leftward-oriented handle targets. Together, or results suggest that action properties in images, and constraints for action imposed by preferences for manual interaction with objects, can influence attentional selection in the context of visual search.

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