Keep away from danger: Dangerous objects in dynamic and static situations

Filomena Anelli, Roberto Nicoletti, Roberto Bolzani, Anna M. Borghi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Behavioral and neuroscience studies have shown that objects observation evokes specific affordances (i.e., action possibilities) and motor responses. Recent findings provide evidence that even dangerous objects can modulate the motor system evoking aversive affordances. This sounds intriguing since so far the majority of behavioral, brain imaging, and transcranial magnetic stimulation studies with painful and dangerous stimuli strictly concerned the domain of pain, with the exception of evidence suggesting sensitivity to objects' affordances when neutral objects are located in participants' peripersonal space. This study investigates whether the observation of a neutral or dangerous object in a static or dynamic situation differently infiuences motor responses, and the time-course of the dangerous objects' processing. In three experiments we manipulated: object dangerousness (neutral vs. dangerous); object category (artifact vs. natural); manual response typology (press vs. release a key); object presentation (Experiment 1: dynamic, Experiments 2 and 3: static); object movement direction (Experiment 1: away vs. toward the participant) or size (Experiments 2 and 3: big vs. normal vs. small). The task required participants to decide whether the object was an artifact or a natural object, by pressing or releasing one key. Results showed a facilitation for neutral over dangerous objects in the static situation, probably due to an affordance effect. Instead, in the dynamic condition responses were modulated by the object movement direction, with a dynamic affordance effect elicited by neutral objects and an escape-avoidance effect provoked by dangerous objects (neutral objects were processed faster when they moved toward-approached the participant, whereas dangerous objects were processed faster when they moved away from the participant). Moreover, static stimuli infiuenced the manual response typology. These data indicate the emergence of dynamic affordance and escaping-avoidance effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number344
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberJUL
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2 2013


  • Affordances
  • Conceptual development
  • Dangerous objects
  • Dynamic affordance effect
  • Dynamic and static presentation
  • Escaping/avoidance effect
  • Motor system
  • Space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Keep away from danger: Dangerous objects in dynamic and static situations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this