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A Functional Role for Motor Simulation in Identifying Tools

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date09/2010
JournalPsychological Science
Journal number9
Volume21
Number of pages5
Pages1215-1219
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Embodied cognition promotes the involvement of the motor system in cognitive processing, such as tool identification. Although neuropsychological studies suggest that the motor system is not necessary for identifying tools, it may still have a functional role in tool recognition. To test this possibility, we used a motor interference task: Participants squeezed a rubber ball in one hand while naming pictures of tools and animals. Participants were faster and more accurate in naming the tools that were oriented with the handle facing away from the squeezing hand than in naming the tools that were oriented with the handle facing toward the squeezing hand. There was no effect of orientation for animals. Given that participants simulate grasping a tool with the hand closest to the handle, this result demonstrates that interfering with the ability to simulate grasping impairs tool naming and suggests that motor simulation has a functional role in tool identification.