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A kinematic examination of dual-route processing for action imitation

Reader, Arran T.; Rao, Vaisnavi M.; Christakou, Anastasia; Holmes, Nicholas P.


Arran T. Reader

Vaisnavi M. Rao

Anastasia Christakou

Nicholas P. Holmes


The dual-route model of imitation suggests that meaningful and meaningless actions are processed through either an indirect or a direct route, respectively. Evidence indicates that the direct route is more cognitively demanding since it relies on mapping visuospatial properties of the observed action on to a performed one. These cognitive demands might negatively influence reaction time and accuracy for actions performed following a meaningless action under time constraints. However, how meaningful and meaningless action imitation processing is reflected in movement kinematics is not yet clear. We wanted to confirm whether meaningless action performance incurs a reaction time cost, whether the cost is reflected in kinematics, and, more generally, to examine kinematic markers of emblematic meaningful and meaningless action imitation. We examined participants’ reaction time and wrist movements when they imitated emblematic meaningful or matched meaningless gestures in either blocks of the same action type or mixed blocks. Meaningless actions were associated with a greater correction period at the end of the movement, possibly reflecting a strategy designed to ensure accurate completion for less familiar actions under time constraints. Furthermore, in mixed blocks, trials following meaningless actions had a significantly increased reaction time, supporting previous claims that route selection for action imitation may be stimulus-driven. However, there was only convincing evidence for this effect with an interval of ~2,948ms, but not ~3,573ms or ~2,553ms, between movements. Future work motion-tracking the entire hand to assess imitation accuracy, and more closely examining the influence of duration between movements, may help to explain these effects.


Reader, A. T., Rao, V. M., Christakou, A., & Holmes, N. P. (2018). A kinematic examination of dual-route processing for action imitation. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 80(8), 2069-2083.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 26, 2018
Online Publication Date Aug 3, 2018
Publication Date Nov 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jan 8, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jan 9, 2019
Journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics
Print ISSN 1943-3921
Electronic ISSN 1943-393X
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 80
Issue 8
Pages 2069-2083
Keywords Linguistics and Language; Experimental and Cognitive Psychology; Sensory Systems; Language and Linguistics
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