Embodiment of motor skills when observing expert and novice athletes

MSL research field: 
Motor control
TitleEmbodiment of motor skills when observing expert and novice athletes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsSinnett, S, Hodges, NJ, Chua, R, Kingstone, A
JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Pagination657 - 668
Date Published04/2011
KeywordsAction observation

If people are shown a dynamic movie of an action such as kicking a soccer ball or hitting a tennis ball, they will respond to it faster if it requires the same effector. This standard congruency effect was reported to reverse when participants viewed static images of famous athletes not actually performing an action. It was suggested that the congruent response was inhibited because of a social contrast effect, based on an implied action, whereby responders viewed themselves as comparatively worse than the professional athlete. The present study recorded hand and foot responses when identifying static images of both famous and novice athletes in soccer and tennis. The action was either explicit or implied. In Experiment 1, a standard congruency effect was found for all images. In Experiment 2, when a response was based on the identity of the athlete rather than their expertise, the standard congruency effect persisted for images of novice athletes, but was eliminated for experts, suggesting a social contrast effect. Our study is the first to show that embodiment effects can be seen for implied and explicit action images of both novices and experts, and that static images are capable of eliciting priming effects associated with sport-relevant effector pairings.

Short TitleThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
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