Minimizing motor mimicry by myself: Self-focus enhances online action-control mechanisms during motor contagion

Consciousness and Cognition 19 (1):98-106 (2010)

Abstract

Ideomotor theory of human action control proposes that activation of a motor representation can occur either through internally-intended or externally-perceived actions. Critically, sometimes these alternatives of eliciting a motor response may be conflicting, for example, when intending one action and perceiving another, necessitating the recruitment of enhanced action-control to avoid motor mimicry. Based on previous neuroimaging evidence, suggesting that reduced mimicry is associated with self-related processing, we aimed to experimentally enhance these action-control mechanisms during motor contagion by inducing self-focus. In two within-subjects experiments, participants had to enforce their action intention against an external motor contagion tendency under heightened and normal self-focus. During high self-focus participants showed reduced motor mimicry, induced either by mirror self-observation or self-referential judgments. This indicates that a self-focus provoking situation can enhance online action-control mechanisms, needed to resist unintentional motor contagion tendencies and thereby enables a modulation of automatic mirroring responses

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