Limits on action priming by pictures of objects

Alfred B. Yu, Richard A. Abrams, Jeffrey M. Zacks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


When does looking at an object prime actions associated with using it, and what aspects of those actions are primed? We examined whether viewing manmade objects with handles would selectively facilitate responses for the hand closest to the handle, attempting to replicate a study reported by Tucker and Ellis (1998). We also examined whether the hypothesized action priming effects depended upon the response hand's proximity to an object. In 7 experiments, participants made judgments about whether pictured objects were manmade or natural or whether the objects were upright or inverted. They responded by pressing buttons located either on the same or opposite side as the objects' handles, at variable distances. Action priming was observed only when participants were explicitly instructed to imagine picking up the pictured objects while making their judgments; the data provide no evidence for task-general automatic priming of lateralized responses by object handles. These data indicate that visually encoding an object activates spatially localized action representations only under special circumstances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1861-1873
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2014


  • Action priming
  • Affordance
  • Stimulus-response compatibility


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