A test of motor skill-specific action embodiment in ice-hockey players

A test of motor skill-specific action embodiment in ice-hockey players
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  1 Running Head: ACTION SIMULATION IN ACTION EMBODIMENT A Test of Motor Skill-Specific Action Embodiment in Ice-hockey Players  Nicole T. Ong 1 , Keith Lohse 1 , Romeo Chua 1 , Scott Sinnett 2  and Nicola J. Hodges 1*  The University of British Columbia and 2 University of Hawaii 1* corresponding author School of Kinesiology 210-6081 University Blvd University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1 email:   phone/fax: 1 604 822 5895 /6842  2 Abstract To further our understanding of the role of the motor system in comprehending action-related sentences, we compared action experts (athletes) to visual experts (fans) and novices when responding with an action-specific effector (either hand or foot). These conditions allowed inferences about the degree and specificity of embodiment in language comprehension. Ice hockey players, fans and novices made speeded judgments regarding the congruence between an auditorily presented sentence and a subsequently presented picture. Picture stimuli consisted of either hockey or everyday items. Half of these pictures ‘matched’ the action implied in the  preceding sentence. Further, the action in these images involved either primarily the hand or the foot. For everyday items, action-matched items were responded to faster than action-mismatched items. However, only the players and fans showed the action-match effect for hockey items. There were no consistent effector-stimuli compatibility effects, nor skill-based interactions with compatibility, suggesting that the action-match effect was not based on motor ability per se, but rather a construction of the action based on knowledge or visual experience with the hockey related sentences.  3 A Test of Motor Skill-Specific Action Embodiment in Ice-hockey Players Knowledge is thought to be grounded in action, such that our representation of objects and events consists of the sensorimotor information and potential interactions that they allow (Holt & Beilock, 2006; Wilson, 2002). The term action “embodiment” has been used to refer to the notion of action representations in cognitive processing. In the following experiment we explore this phenomenon of embodiment in language comprehension through the study of action experience. Specifically, we study how different sensorimotor experiences impact on language comprehension and action embodiment with respect to effector priming. Behavioural research  pertaining to language comprehension has so far provided support for the embodiment of action representations (Beilock et al., 2008; Bergen, Narayan & Feldman, 2003; Diefenbach, Rieger, Massen & Prinz, 2013; Ghio & Tettamanti, 2010; Glenberg & Gallese, 2012; Glenberg & Kaschak, 2002; Holt & Beilock 2006; Kaschak & Borreggine, 2008; Knoeferle, Crocker & Pulvermüller, 2010; Pulvermüller & Fadiga, 2010; Stanfield & Zwaan, 2001; Taylor & Zwaan, 2009; Zwaan, Stanfield & Yaxley, 2002; Zwaan & Taylor, 2006). This research has led to the suggestion that individuals simulate the potential actions or interactions associated with action-related words in order to comprehend language (Glenberg & Kaschak, 2002). There are, however, outstanding questions as to what this simulation entails and the sensorimotor conditions that elicit simulation during language comprehension. We briefly review research into these questions below and then present an experiment in which we explore the behavioural realization of this proposed simulation with respect to effector specific priming across different levels of perceptual and motor expertise.  4 Cortical representations of actions There is significant evidence for what has been referred to as a mirror type system in the human brain (e.g., Gallese, Fadiga, Foggassi & Rizzolatti, 1996) or action-observation network (e.g., Aziz-Zadeh, Wilson, Rizzolatti & Iacoboni, 2006; Caspers, Zilles, Laird & Eickhoff, 2010) that responds to the observation of actions in a similar way as to action execution (i.e., activation of the same neural structures). Although there is some debate about the reason for this network (Gallese, Gernsbacher, Heyes, Hickok & Iacoboni, 2011; Heyes, 2010; Prinz, 2006; Zentgraf, Munzert, Bischoff & Newman-Norlund, 2011) one proposal is that such neural activation (or covert simulation of the action) serves the purpose of action understanding (e.g., Gallese et al., 1996; Prinz, 2006; Rizzolatti, Fadiga, Gallese & Foggassi, 1996; Rizzolatti, Fogassi & Gallese, 2001). This action simulation process is not limited to the visual modality. For example, hearing a peanut shell being broken was sufficient to activate mirror neurons associated with the actual action in a monkey (Kohler, Keysers, Umilta, Fogassi, Gallese & Rizzolatti, 2002). Similarly, it has been argued that the comprehension of action-related language involves a mapping of words onto one’s motor repertoire (Pullermüller, 2005). This forms the basis of action embodiment in language comprehension. Language comprehension Action embodiment in language comprehension was evidenced by action-sentence compatibility effects when a “toward -  body” sentence resulted in response facilitation of a subsequent action made towards the body (Glenberg & Kaschak, 2002). For example, hearing the sentence “put your finger under your nose” facilitated actions towards the body but interfered with making a movement away from the body (see also Zwaan & Taylor, 2006).  5 Other methods have been used to investigate action embodiment in language comprehension. For example, noun words that represent easy to manipulate objects (or objects whose function is to be manipulated) are more easily remembered and lead to increased activation in sensorimotor areas than words that do not encourage manipulation (e.g., Madan & Singhal, 2012; Rueschemeyer, van Rooij, Lindemann, Willems & Bekkering, 2010). Of more relevance to our study, Zwaan and colleagues (Stanfield & Zwaan, 2001; Zwaan, Stanfield & Yaxley, 2002) measured recognition latency to objects or shapes that either matched or did not match the orientations or shapes, respectively, afforded by the preceding sentence-actions. For example, a picture of a vertical pencil (match) or horizontal pencil (mismatch) was presented following the sentence, “John put the pencil in the cup”. Even though actions were only implied and participants were not required to make overt responses (i.e., the respondent only indicated horizontal or vertical in the previous example), an “action -match ”  effect was shown (i.e., action-matched pictures were recognized faster than the action-mismatched pictures). Such results suggest that the objects’ orientation or actions associated with the objects were included in the representations that were elicited during sentence comprehension. Sensorimotor experience and modulation In an effort to understand how this knowledge becomes embodied and the nature of the representations elicited during language comprehension, sensorimotor skill level has been contrasted (ranging from highly skilled with both visual and motor experience to no experience; e.g., Beilock et al., 2008; Holt & Beilock, 2006; Lyons, Mattarella-Micke, Cieslak, Nusbaum, Small & Beilock, 2010). People who have had extensive opportunities to acquire sensorimotor information, via interaction with the objects and performing the actions specific to the domain, might be expected to show more or specific evidence of embodiment in comparison to action-
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