Perceiving object dangerousness: An escape from pain?

Filomena Anelli, Mariagrazia Ranzini, Roberto Nicoletti, Anna M. Borghi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A variety of studies showed that participants are facilitated when responding to graspable objects, while it has not been fully investigated what happens during interactions with graspable objects that are potentially dangerous. The present study focuses on the mechanisms underlying the processing of dangerous objects. In two experiments, we adopted a paradigm that has never been employed in this context, a bisection task. The line was flanked by objects belonging to different categories. We explored the sensitivity to the distinction between neutral and dangerous objects, by measuring whether the performance was biased toward a specific object category. In Experiment 1 both teenagers and adults bisected lines flanked by dangerous and neutral graspable objects, and they misperceived the line midpoint toward the neutral graspable object or, stated differently, on the opposite side of the dangerous graspable object. In Experiment 2 adults bisected lines flanked by dangerous and neutral objects matched on graspability (both graspable and ungraspable, Experiment 2a), or by graspable and ungraspable objects matched on dangerousness (both neutral and dangerous, Experiment 2b). Results confirmed the finding of Experiment 1, but also indicated that participants misperceived the line midpoint toward the ungraspable object when it was presented, being it dangerous or not. This evidence demonstrated sensitivity to object dangerousness maintained across lifespan. The emergence of aversive affordances evoked by dangerous graspable objects strenghtens the importance to consider graspability in the investigation of dangerous objects. Possible neural mechanisms involved in the processing of dangerous graspable objects are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-466
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Affordances
  • Canonical neurons
  • Dangerous objects
  • Embodied cognition
  • Graspability
  • Line bisection task
  • Motor simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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