Thoughts and actions are intimately linked, and the mere thought of an action is much like actually performing it. The brain prepares for an action by generating a motor simulation of it, praticising its execution of the movements by going through the motions invisibly. Seeing a manipulable object such as a tool, for example, automatically triggers a simulation of using it - a mental image of reaching out and grasping it with the hand that is nearest to the handle.
Motor simulations and movements are known to influence thought processes. Magnetic stimulation of the motor cortex influences the processing of words related to arm and leg action, whereas polonged movements in one direction slow the comprehension of sentences related to movements in the other. Psychologist Jessica Witt of the Action-Modulated Perception Laboratory at Purdue University and her colleagues now provide further evidence of this link - in a study published online in the journal Psychological Science, they show that motor simulations may enhance the recognition of tools.
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- Witt, J.K., et al. (2010). A Functional Role for Motor Simulation in Identifying Tools. Psychological Sci. [Abstract]
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