Wurm & Schubotz (2012)

Wurm, M.F. & Schubotz, R.I. (2012). Squeezing lemons in the bathroom: contextual information modulates action recognition. NeuroImage, 59(2), 1551-9.

Most every day actions take place in domestic rooms that are specific for certain classes of actions. Contextual information derived from domestic settings may therefore influence the efficiency of action recognition. The present studies investigated whether action recognition is modulated by compatibility of the context an action is embedded in. To this end, subjects watched video clips of actions performed in compatible, incompatible, and neutral contexts. Recognition was significantly slower when actions took place in an incompatible as compared to a compatible or a neutral context (Experiment 1). Functional MRI revealed increased activation for incompatible context in Brodmann Areas (BA) 44, 45, and 47 of the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC; Experiment 2). Results suggest that contextual information - even when task-irrelevant ? informs a high processing level of action analysis. In particular, the functional profiles assigned to these prefrontal regions suggest that contextual information activates associated action representations as a function of (in-)compatibility. Thus, incompatibility effects may reflect the attempt to resolve the conflict between action and context by embedding the presented action step into an overarching action that is again compatible with the provided context.

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