Close interpersonal proximity modulates visuomotor processing of object affordances in shared, social space

Elizabeth J. Saccone, Ancret Szpak, Owen Churches, Michael E.R. Nicholls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Research suggests that the human brain codes manipulable objects as possibilities for action, or affordances, particularly objects close to the body. Near-body space is not only a zone for body-environment interaction but also is socially relevant, as we are driven to preserve our near-body, personal space from others. The current, novel study investigated how close proximity of a stranger modulates visuomotor processing of object affordances in shared, social space. Participants performed a behavioural object recognition task both alone and with a human confederate. All object images were in participants’ reachable space but appeared relatively closer to the participant or the confederate. Results revealed when participants were alone, objects in both locations produced an affordance congruency effect but when the confederate was present, only objects nearer the participant elicited the effect. Findings suggest space is divided between strangers to preserve independent near-body space boundaries, and in turn this process influences motor coding for stimuli within that social space. To demonstrate that this visuomotor modulation represents a social phenomenon, rather than a general, attentional effect, two subsequent experiments employed nonhuman joint conditions. Neither a small, Japanese, waving cat statue (Experiment 2) nor a metronome (Experiment 3) modulated the affordance effect as in Experiment 1. These findings suggest a truly social explanation of the key interaction from Experiment 1. This study represents an important step toward understanding object affordance processing in real-world, social contexts and has implications broadly across fields of social action and cognition, and body space representation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-68
Number of pages15
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Volume80
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

Keywords

  • Interpersonal proximity
  • Object affordance
  • Peripersonal space
  • Personal space
  • Social cognition
  • Social space

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