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Responses to irrational actions in action observation and mentalising networks of the human brain

Marsh, Lauren E.; Mullett, Timothy L.; Ropar, Danielle; Hamilton, Antonia F. de C.


Timothy L. Mullett

Antonia F. de C. Hamilton


By observing other people, we can often infer goals and motivations behind their actions. This study examines the role of the action observation network (AON) and the mentalising network (MZN) in the perception of rational and irrational actions. Past studies in this area report mixed results, so the present paper uses new stimuli which precisely control motion path, the social form of the actor and the rationality of the action. A cluster in medial prefrontal cortex and a large cluster in the right inferior parietal lobule extending to the temporoparietal junction distinguished observation of irrational from rational actions. Activity within the temporoparietal region also correlated on a trial-by-trial basis with each participant's judgement of action rationality. These findings demonstrate that observation of another person performing an irrational action engages both action observation and mentalising networks. Our results advance current theories of action comprehension and the roles of action observation and mentalising networks in this process.


Marsh, L. E., Mullett, T. L., Ropar, D., & Hamilton, A. F. D. C. (2014). Responses to irrational actions in action observation and mentalising networks of the human brain. NeuroImage, 103, 81-90. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.09.020

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 3, 2014
Online Publication Date Sep 19, 2014
Publication Date 2014-12
Deposit Date Dec 11, 2018
Journal NeuroImage
Print ISSN 1053-8119
Electronic ISSN 1095-9572
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 103
Pages 81-90
Keywords Social cognition; Action understanding; Irrational actions; Action observation network; Mentalising network
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