Action recognition and movement direction discrimination tasks are associated with different adaptation patterns

Stephan de la Rosa, Mina Ekramnia, Heinrich Bulthoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to discriminate between different actions is essential for action recognition and social interactions. Surprisingly previous research has often probed action recognition mechanisms with tasks that did not require participants to discriminate between actions, e.g. left-right direction discrimination tasks. It is not known to what degree visual processes in direction discrimination tasks are also involved in the discrimination of actions, e.g. when telling apart a handshake from a high-five. Here, we examined whether action discrimination is influenced by movement direction and whether direction discrimination depends on the type of action. We used an action adaptation paradigm to target action and direction discrimination specific visual processes. In separate conditions participants visually adapted to forward and backward moving handshake and high-five actions. Participants subsequently categorized either the action or the movement direction of an ambiguous action. The results showed that direction discrimination adaptation effects were modulated by the type of action but action discrimination adaptation effects were unaffected by movement direction. These results suggest that action discrimination and direction categorization rely on partly different visual information. We propose that action discrimination tasks should be considered for the exploration of visual action recognition mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberFEB2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Feb 23
Externally publishedYes


  • Action adaptation
  • Action discrimination
  • Action observation
  • Action recognition
  • Direction discrimination
  • High-level adaptation
  • Movement direction
  • Visual adaptation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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