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Do action goals mediate social inhibition of return?

Cole, Geoff G.; Skarratt, Paul A.; Billing, Rebeccah-Claire


Geoff G. Cole

Rebeccah-Claire Billing


Social inhibition of return is the phenomenon whereby an individual is slower to reach to locations to which another individual has recently responded. Although this suggests that an observer represents another person's action, little is known about which aspects of the action are encoded. The present work describes a series of three experiments examining whether social inhibition of return represents the endpoint goal of the action, i. e., is 'goal based'. Pairs of participants sat opposite to one another and alternated responses to a cued or non-cued object presented on a table top. Importantly, either the two participants performed the same interaction with the object or a different interaction. Although all our experiments showed social inhibition of return, the size of the effect was not modulated according to whether each participant had the same or different goal. We conclude that although the mechanisms giving rise to social inhibition of return do encode some aspects of a response they do not code for terminal action goals.


Cole, G. G., Skarratt, P. A., & Billing, R. (2012). Do action goals mediate social inhibition of return?. Psychological research, 76(6), 736-746.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 5, 2011
Online Publication Date Dec 6, 2011
Publication Date 2012-11
Print ISSN 0340-0727
Electronic ISSN 1430-2772
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 76
Issue 6
Pages 736-746
Keywords Experimental and Cognitive Psychology; Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous); Developmental and Educational Psychology; General Medicine
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