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Understanding distal goals from proximal communicative actions


Can people interpret communicative action modulations in terms of the actor’s distal goal? We investigated situations in which the proximal goal of an action (i.e., the movement endpoint) does not overlap with its distal goal (i.e., a final location beyond the movement endpoint). Participants were presented with animations of an object being moved at different velocities towards a designated endpoint. The distal goal, however, was for the object to be moved past this endpoint, to one of two occluded final locations. Participants were asked to select the location which they considered the likely distal goal of the action. As predicted, participants detected differences in movement velocity and, based on these differences, systematically mapped the movements to the two distal goal locations. These findings extend previous research on sensorimotor communication by demonstrating that communicative action modulations are not restricted to proximal goals but can also contain information about distal goals.

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