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20-01-2017 | Original Article | Uitgave 3/2018

Psychological Research 3/2018

Numerical magnitude affects online execution, and not planning of visuomotor control

Psychological Research > Uitgave 3/2018
Gal Namdar, Tzvi Ganel


Recent literature has established a directional influence of irrelevant numerical magnitude on actions performed toward neutral objects. For example, fingers’ aperture during grasping is larger when associated with large compared with small numerical digits. This interaction between symbolic magnitude and visuomotor control has been attributed to the planning stage of the action prior to motor execution. However, this assumption has not been directly tested. In two experiments, we tested whether the effects of numerical magnitude on grasping derive from action planning or from action execution. Participants were asked to grasp an object following a short visual (Experiment 1) or auditory (Experiment 2) presentation of small (1/2) or large (8/9) digits. Grasping was performed under either closed-loop (CL) or open-loop (OL) visuomotor control, for which online vision was prevented during action execution. Digit magnitude affected grip apertures in the CL condition, when online vision was allowed. However, magnitude had no effects on grip aperture in the OL condition. This pattern of results strongly suggests that the processing of numerical magnitude originates from interactions between numerical magnitude and real object size during online motor execution. Unlike previously assumed, the findings also suggest that the effect of magnitude on visuomotor control is not likely to be attributed to the motor planning stage prior to action initiation.

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