The way others move can influence what we choose

Paul A G Forbes, Steph F Suddell, Harry Farmer, Yanakan Logeswaran, Antonia F. de C. Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
148 Downloads (Pure)


Whether pointing at a menu item or rifling through a clothes rack, when we choose we often move. We investigated whether people's tendency to copy the movements of others could influence their choices. Participants saw pairs of pictures in private and indicated which one they preferred. They then entered a virtual art gallery and saw the same picture pairs in the presence of a virtual character. Having observed the virtual character point to indicate her preference with either a high or low movement trajectory, participants indicated their preference. There was either an anatomical (same movement, same choice) or spatial correspondence (same movement, different choice) between the participant's pictures and those of the virtual character. We found that participants copied the movement made by the virtual character rather than her action goal (i.e., her choice of picture). This resulted in a shift towards the virtual character's preferences in the anatomical condition but away from her preferences in the spatial condition. This effect was driven by the observation of the virtual character's high pointing movements. In a further experiment, we did not find any significant differences in imitation behaviour in autism, although autistic participants were less consistent in their choices. Our findings demonstrate that we are not only influenced by other's choices but also the types of movements others make to indicate those choices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1756-1770
Number of pages15
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number7
Early online date7 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science


  • action observation
  • autism
  • Imitation
  • kinematics
  • social influence


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