The case for motor involvement in perceiving conspecifics

Psychol Bull. 2005 May;131(3):460-73. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.131.3.460.


Perceiving other people's behaviors activates imitative motor plans in the perceiver, but there is disagreement as to the function of this activation. In contrast to other recent proposals (e.g., that it subserves overt imitation, identification and understanding of actions, or working memory), here it is argued that imitative motor activation feeds back into the perceptual processing of conspecifics' behaviors, generating top-down expectations and predictions of the unfolding action. Furthermore, this account incorporates recent ideas about emulators in the brain-mental simulations that run in parallel to the external events they simulate-to provide a mechanism by which motoric involvement could contribute to perception. Evidence from a variety of literatures is brought to bear to support this account of perceiving human body movement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology
  • Gestures
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Posture / physiology
  • Social Perception
  • Visual Perception / physiology