Motor invariants in action execution and perception

Phys Life Rev. 2023 Mar;44:13-47. doi: 10.1016/j.plrev.2022.11.003. Epub 2022 Nov 24.


The nervous system is sensitive to statistical regularities of the external world and forms internal models of these regularities to predict environmental dynamics. Given the inherently social nature of human behavior, being capable of building reliable predictive models of others' actions may be essential for successful interaction. While social prediction might seem to be a daunting task, the study of human motor control has accumulated ample evidence that our movements follow a series of kinematic invariants, which can be used by observers to reduce their uncertainty during social exchanges. Here, we provide an overview of the most salient regularities that shape biological motion, examine the role of these invariants in recognizing others' actions, and speculate that anchoring socially-relevant perceptual decisions to such kinematic invariants provides a key computational advantage for inferring conspecifics' goals and intentions.

Keywords: Action perception; Bayesian inference; Biological motion; Internal models; Kinematic invariants; Motor control.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Intention*
  • Movement* / physiology
  • Perception