The role of attention in anticipated action effects.

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


Past research has shown that merely anticipating a certain action in someone else leads observers to engage in the anticipated action—a phenomenon called anticipated action. In a standard experiment on anticipated action, participants watch video clips of a model engaging in triggering events such as nose wrinkling or hair falling. A typical finding is that participants engage in more nose actions while watching the nose wrinkling video than while watching the hair falling video and vice versa for the engagement in hair actions. Whereas past research has suggested that this effect is due to inferring a desire in others to act, an alternative explanation is that observing a triggering event in someone else guides attention toward respective body parts, facilitating any action toward this body part. In two experiments we set this explanation to a critical test. The results speak against attention as driving process and in favor of inferring a desire in others to act, because guiding attention to the location of the triggering event did not result in anticipated action effects. This result has important implications for research on anticipative processes and imitative behavior. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved) Public Significance Statement—In this article we investigate the role of attention on anticipated action effects. Two experiments demonstrate that merely guiding attention to a location does not facilitate actions toward this location. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)323-330
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
German Research Foundation

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association

    Research areas

  • anticipation, attention, imitation, local enhancement, prediction
  • Business psychology