Grasping the pain: Motor resonance with dangerous affordances

Filomena Anelli, Anna M. Borghi, Roberto Nicoletti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two experiments, one on school-aged children and one on adults, explored the mechanisms underlying responses to an image prime (hand vs. control object) followed by graspable objects that were, in certain cases, dangerous. Participants were presented with different primes (a male, a female and a robotic grasping-hand; a male and a female static-hand; a control stimulus) and objects representing two risk levels (neutral and dangerous). The task required that a natural/artifact categorization task be performed by pressing different keys. In both adults and children graspable objects activated a facilitating motor response, while dangerous objects evoked aversive affordances, generating an interference-effect. Both children and adults were sensitive to the distinction between biological and non-biological hands, however detailed resonant mechanisms related to the hand-prime gender emerged only in adults. Implications for how the concept of "dangerous object" develops and the relationship between resonant mechanisms and perception of danger are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1627-1639
Number of pages13
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • Affordances
  • Dangerous objects
  • Empathy
  • Motor resonance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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