Selecting object pairs for action: Is the active object always first?

Rosanna Laverick, Melanie Wulff, Juliane J. Honisch, Wei Ling Chua, Alan M. Wing, Pia Rotshtein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Perception is linked to action via two routes: a direct route based on affordance information in the environment and an indirect route based on semantic knowledge about objects. The present study explored the factors modulating the recruitment of the two routes, in particular which factors affecting the selection of paired objects. In Experiment 1, we presented real objects among semantically related or unrelated distracters. Participants had to select two objects that can interact. The presence of distracters affected selection times, but not the semantic relations of the objects with the distracters. Furthermore, participants first selected the active object (e.g. teaspoon) with their right hand, followed by the passive object (e.g. mug), often with their left hand. In Experiment 2, we presented pictures of the same objects with no hand grip, congruent or incongruent hand grip. Participants had to decide whether the two objects can interact. Action decisions were faster when the presentation of the active object preceded the presentation of the passive object, and when the grip was congruent. Interestingly, participants were slower when the objects were semantically but not functionally related; this effect increased with congruently gripped objects. Our data showed that action decisions in the presence of strong affordance cues (real objects, pictures of congruently gripped objects) relied on sensory-motor representation, supporting the direct route from perception-to-action that bypasses semantic knowledge. However, in the case of weak affordance cues (pictures), semantic information interfered with action decisions, indicating that semantic knowledge impacts action decisions. The data support the dual-route account from perception-to-action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2269-2281
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - 25 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Attention
  • Conceptual knowledge
  • Paired-object affordance
  • Semantic interference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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