Are Goal States Represented During Kinematic Imitation?

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A number of studies have shown that observation of another person’s actions can modulate one’s own actions, such as when 2 individuals cooperate in order to complete a joint task. However, little is known about whether or not direct matching of specific movements is modulated by the goals of the actions observed. In a series of 7 experiments, we employed an action observation paradigm in which 2 coactors sat opposite each other and took turns to reach out to targets presented on a shared workspace. Importantly, coactors performed either the same goal at the reached-to location or a different goal. Although results consistently showed that the reaching action of 1 individual slows the observer’s reaching action to the same spatial location, the effect was not modulated according to the adopted goals of coactors. These findings challenge the notion that the processes involved in the imitation of specific movements code for the action goals of those movements.

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