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Tool and object affordances: An ecological eye-tracking study

In the present eye-tracking study, we analysed the visuo-spatial attentional patterns of participants looking at 3D images depicting single tools and object-tool pairs. The object-tool pairs could be thematically consistent, thematically inconsistent or spatially inconsistent. During the first 500 ms of visual exploration, tools were fixated longer on their functional area in all experimental conditions. However, extending the time-window of analysis to 1750 ms, the visual scene was encoded in a faster and more suited-for-action way in the thematically consistent condition (e.g., hammer-nail). Most important, the visual exploration of the thematically consistent pairs focused on the manipulation area of the tool (e.g., the handle of the hammer) more than on its functional area (e.g., the head of the hammer). Finally, when single tools were shown and the entire time-window of analysis was considered (1750 ms), fixation focused on the tool’s manipulation area. These results are discussed within the reasoning-based framework of tool use. They highlight the relative role of the visuo-perceptual context in affordance perception and suggest a novel interpretation of the cognitive mechanisms underlying the processing of tools and object-tool pairs in terms of action reappraisal (i.e., a re-functionalization process when the action possibility is mined by the visuo-perceptual context).

This article has been published in Brain and Cognition 135 (2019).

You can read the full paper here.