Adaptation aftereffects reveal representations for encoding of contingent social actions
|Giese, Martin A.
|de la Rosa, S
A hallmark of human social behavior is the effortless ability to relate one’s own actions to that of the interaction partner, e.g., when stretching out one’s arms to catch a tripping child. What are the behavioral properties of the neural substrates that support this indispensable human skill? Here we examined the processes underlying the ability to relate actions to each other, namely the recognition of spatiotemporal contingencies between actions (e.g., a “giving” that is followed by a “taking”). We used a behavioral adaptation paradigm to examine the response properties of perceptual mechanisms at a behavioral level. In contrast to the common view that action-sensitive units are primarily selective for one action (i.e., primary action, e.g., ‘throwing”), we demonstrate that these processes also exhibit sensitivity to a matching contingent action (e.g., “catching”). Control experiments demonstrate that the sensitivity of action recognition processes to contingent actions cannot be explained by lower-level visual features or amodal semantic adaptation. Moreover, we show that action recognition processes are sensitive only to contingent actions, but not to noncontingent actions, demonstrating their selective sensitivity to contingent actions. Our findings show the selective coding mechanism for action contingencies by action-sensitive processes and demonstrate how the representations of individual actions in social interactions can be linked in a unified representation