I see what you say: Prior knowledge of other's goals automatically biases the perception of their actions

Matthew Hudson*, Toby Nicholson, Rob Ellis, Patric Bach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


We investigated whether top-down expectations about an actor's intentions affect action perception in a representational momentum (RM) paradigm. Participants heard an actor declare an intention to either take or leave an object and then saw him either reach for or withdraw from it, such that action and intention were either congruent or incongruent. Observers generally misperceived the hand's disappearance point further along the trajectory than it actually was, in line with the idea that action perception incorporates predictions of the action's future course. Importantly, this RM effect was larger for actions congruent with the actor's goals than for incongruent actions. These results demonstrate that action prediction integrates both current motion and top-down knowledge about the actor's intention. They support recent theories that emphasise the role of prior expectancies and prediction errors in social (and non-social) cognitive processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-250
Number of pages6
Early online date9 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [Grant Number ES/J019178/1], which had no involvement in the design of the study nor preparation of the manuscript.


  • Perceptual anticipation
  • Intention
  • Action goals
  • Predictive coding
  • Mirror neurons
  • Visual prediction
  • GAZE


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