Effects of Context on Visuomotor Interference Depends on the Perspective of Observed Actions

Marta Bortoletto, Jason B. Mattingley, Ross Cunnington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Visuomotor interference occurs when the execution of an action is facilitated by the concurrent observation of the same action and hindered by the concurrent observation of a different action. There is evidence that visuomotor interference can be modulated top-down by higher cognitive functions, depending on whether own performed actions or observed actions are selectively attended. Here, we studied whether these effects of cognitive context on visuomotor interference are also dependent on the point-of-view of the observed action. We employed a delayed go/no-go task known to induce visuomotor interference. Static images of hand gestures in either egocentric or allocentric perspective were presented as "go" stimuli after participants were pre-cued to prepare either a matching (congruent) or non-matching (incongruent) action. Participants performed this task in two different cognitive contexts: In one, they focused on the visual image of the hand gesture shown as the go stimulus (image context), whereas in the other they focused on the hand gesture they performed (action context). We analyzed reaction times to initiate the prepared action upon presentation of the gesture image and found evidence of visuomotor interference in both contexts and for both perspectives. Strikingly, results show that the effect of cognitive context on visuomotor interference also depends on the perspective of observed actions. When focusing on own-actions, visuomotor interference was significantly less for gesture images in allocentric perspective than in egocentric perspective; when focusing on observed actions, visuomotor interference was present regardless of the perspective of the gesture image. Overall these data suggest that visuomotor interference may be modulated by higher cognitive processes, so that when we are specifically attending to our own actions, images depicting others' actions (allocentric perspective) have much less interference on our own actions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere53248
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 3 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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