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When your decisions are not (quite) your own: Action observation influences free choices

Cole, Geoff G.; Wright, Damien; Doneva, Silviya P.; Skarratt, Paul A.


Geoff G. Cole

Damien Wright

Silviya P. Doneva


Alessio Avenanti


A growing number of studies have begun to assess how the actions of one individual are represented in an observer. Using a variant of an action observation paradigm, four experiments examined whether one person’s behaviour can influence the subjective decisions and judgements of another. In Experiment 1, two observers sat adjacent to each other and took turns to freely select and reach to one of two locations. Results showed that participants were less likely to make a response to the same location as their partner. In three further experiments observers were asked to decide which of two familiar products they preferred or which of two faces were most attractive. Results showed that participants were less likely to choose the product or face occupying the location of their partner’s previous reaching response. These findings suggest that action observation can influence a range of free choice preferences and decisions. Possible mechanisms through which this influence occurs are discussed.


Cole, G. G., Wright, D., Doneva, S. P., & Skarratt, P. A. (2015). When your decisions are not (quite) your own: Action observation influences free choices. PLoS ONE, 10(5), e0127766.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 20, 2015
Online Publication Date May 29, 2015
Publication Date May 29, 2015
Deposit Date Jul 31, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal PLoS one
Print ISSN 1932-6203
Electronic ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 5
Article Number ARTN e0127766
Pages e0127766
Keywords Decision making; Behaviour; Face; Confidence levels; Imitation; Cognition; Perception; Animal behaviour
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Copy of article first published in: PLoS one, 2015, v.10, issue 5


Article.pdf (443 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2015 Cole et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

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