Action comprehension: Deriving spatial and functional relations

Patric Bach*, Thomas C. Gunter, Angela D. Friederici, Günther Knoblich, Wolfgang Prinz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


A perceived action can be understood only when information about the action carried out and the objects used are taken into account. It was investigated how spatial and functional information contributes to establishing these relations. Participants observed static frames showing a hand wielding an instrument and a potential target object of the action. The 2 elements could either match or mismatch, spatially or functionally. Participants were required to judge only 1 of the 2 relations while ignoring the other. Both irrelevant spatial and functional mismatches affected judgments of the relevant relation. Moreover, the functional relation provided a context for the judgment of the spatial relation but not vice versa. The results are discussed in respect to recent accounts of action understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-479
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2005


  • Action comprehension
  • Action recognition
  • Functional knowledge
  • Mirror neurons
  • Tool use


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