Adaptation of lift forces in object manipulation through action observation

Andreas F. Reichelt, Alyssa M. Ash, Lee A. Baugh, Roland S. Johansson, J. Randall Flanagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The ability to predict accurately the weights of objects is essential for skilled and dexterous manipulation. A potentially important source of information about object weight is through the observation of other people lifting objects. Here, we tested the hypothesis that when watching an actor lift an object, people naturally learn the object's weight and use this information to scale forces when they subsequently lift the object themselves. Participants repeatedly lifted an object in turn with an actor. Object weight unpredictably changed between 2 and 7 N every 5th to 9th of the actor's lifts, and the weight lifted by the participant always matched that previously lifted by the actor. Even though the participants were uninformed about the structure of the experiment, they appropriately adapted their lifting force in the first trial after a weight change. Thus, participants updated their internal representation about the object's weight, for use in action, when watching a single lift performed by the actor. This ability presumably involves the comparison of predicted and actual sensory information related to actor's actions, a comparison process that is also fundamental in action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-234
Number of pages14
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Action observation
  • Human
  • Motor learning
  • Object manipulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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