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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Do action-relevant properties of objects capture attention and prime action? Lam, Melanie Yah-Wai


In a recent series of studies, Tucker and Ellis (Ellis & Tucker 2000; Tucker & Ellis 1998) have proposed that objects automatically prime components of potential actions that they afford. Recent work, however, suggests that perhaps some form of cognitive coding or attentional mechanism may be responsible for the orientation effect described by Tucker and Ellis (1998) (Lyons et al., 2001; Anderson et al, 2002; Phillips & Ward, 2002). The primary purpose of the experiments reported here was to further examine the orientation effect and to investigate whether attention is captured by the action-relevant properties of objects. As a means of investigating whether attention was indeed directed to the action-relevant feature of an object, we assessed eye movement behaviour during the perception of an object. In Experiment 1, we sought to perform a conceptual replication of Tucker and Ellis (1998) original experiment and attempt to replicate the orientation effect. Thus, participants made speeded judgements of the vertical orientation of a common household object that was presented in varying vertical and horizontal orientations. The results revealed an absence of eye movements which suggested that attention may not be overtly captured by the action-relevant property (the handle) of the object presented. In addition, our reaction time (RT) results did not reveal an interaction between horizontal orientation and response. In Experiment 2, we asked participants to judge the horizontal, instead of the vertical, orientation of the presented object to examine the orientation effect when horizontal orientation was actually relevant to the task. The pattern of eye movements replicated much of those found in Experiment 1. In contrast to the RT results of Experiment 1, there was a trend toward an orientation effect such that participants responded more quickly when the arrangement of the horizontal orientation overlapped with the response set. Taken together, the results of Experiment 1 and 2 suggest a potential influence for intention and the relevant stimulus dimension for task performance. In Experiment 3, we examined how intentional set of participants impacts the influence of the objects’ action-relevant features by varying the relevant stimulus dimension and stimulus-response mapping instructions. The results showed that when the horizontal orientation was the relevant dimension to identify, the handle orientation had an influence on the response hand but not when the vertical orientation was the relevant dimension. This would suggest that RT was unaffected by the orientation of the object along the task-irrelevant dimension.

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