Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Janny Stapel (Donders Series 189)

4 September 2015

Promotor: Prof.dr. H. Bekkering, copromotor: dr. S. Hunnius

Action prediction and the development thereof

In my thesis, I report a series of experiments in which action perception and its early development was investigated. Infant and adult observers were shown to base their action predictions on the actor’s movements and on their previous knowledge. The developmental findings are consistent with the idea that the capacity to predict others’ actions develops through visual and motor experience. Action prediction was found to be more accurate if the observer had motor experience with specifically that action.

Action experience was shown to be beneficial in three ways. First, prediction of the timing of observed actions becomes more accurate with increasing action experience. Second, predicting which object will be the target of an observed action can be done with higher precision when observers have more experience with the action at hand. Third, action experience serves as a powerful tool to acquire motor laws and information about action constraints that can be used to predict others’ actions. In conclusion, my research shows that motor development not only extends infants’ action capacities, but has an important impact on sociocognitive development as well.