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Action adaptation during natural unfolding social scenes influences action recognition and inferences made about actor beliefs

Keefe, Bruce D.; Wincenciak, Joanna; Jellema, Tjeerd; Ward, James W.; Barraclough, Nick E.


Bruce D. Keefe

Joanna Wincenciak

James W. Ward

Nick E. Barraclough


When observing another individual's actions, we can both recognize their actions and infer their beliefs concerning the physical and social environment. The extent to which visual adaptation influences action recognition and conceptually later stages of processing involved in deriving the belief state of the actor remains unknown. To explore this we used virtual reality (life-size photorealistic actors presented in stereoscopic three dimensions) to see how visual adaptation influences the perception of individuals in naturally unfolding social scenes at increasingly higher levels of action understanding. We presented scenes in which one actor picked up boxes (of varying number and weight), after which a second actor picked up a single box. Adaptation to the first actor's behavior systematically changed perception of the second actor. Aftereffects increased with the duration of the first actor's behavior, declined exponentially over time, and were independent of view direction. Inferences about the second actor's expectation of box weight were also distorted by adaptation to the first actor. Distortions in action recognition and actor expectations did not, however, extend across different actions, indicating that adaptation is not acting at an action-independent abstract level but rather at an action-dependent level. We conclude that although adaptation influences more complex inferences about belief states of individuals, this is likely to be a result of adaptation at an earlier action recognition stage rather than adaptation operating at a higher, more abstract level in mentalizing or simulation systems.


Keefe, B. D., Wincenciak, J., Jellema, T., Ward, J. W., & Barraclough, N. E. (2016). Action adaptation during natural unfolding social scenes influences action recognition and inferences made about actor beliefs. Journal of Vision, 16(9), 1-20.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 23, 2016
Publication Date Jul 29, 2016
Deposit Date Oct 12, 2016
Publicly Available Date Oct 12, 2016
Journal Journal of vision
Print ISSN 1534-7362
Electronic ISSN 1534-7362
Publisher Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 16
Issue 9
Article Number ARTN 9
Pages 1-20
Keywords Action adaptation, Action recognition
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a copy of an open access article published in Journal of vision, 2016, v.16 issue 9.
Contract Date Oct 12, 2016


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