Imitation or Polarity Correspondence?:Behavioural and Neurophysiological Evidence for the Confounding Influence of Orthogonal Spatial Compatibility on Measures of Automatic Imitation


During social interactions, humans tend to imitate one another involuntarily. To investigate the neurocognitive mechanisms driving this tendency, researchers often employ stimulus-response compatibility (SRC) tasks to assess the influence that action observation has on action execution. This is referred to as automatic imitation (AI). The stimuli used frequently in SRC procedures to elicit AI often confound action-related with other nonsocial influences on behaviour; however, in response to the rotated hand-action stimuli employed increasingly, AI partly reflects unspecific up-right/down-left biases in stimulus-response mapping. Despite an emerging awareness of this confounding orthogonal spatial-compatibility effect, psychological and neuroscientific research into social behaviour continues to employ these stimuli to investigate AI. To increase recognition of this methodological issue, the present study measured the systematic influence of orthogonal spatial effects on behavioural and neurophysiological measures of AI acquired with rotated hand-action stimuli in SRC tasks. In Experiment 1, behavioural data from a large sample revealed that complex orthogonal spatial effects exert an influence on AI over and above any topographical similarity between observed and executed actions. Experiment 2 reproduced this finding in a more systematic, within-subject design, and high-density electroencephalography revealed that electrocortical expressions of AI elicited also are modulated by orthogonal spatial compatibility. Finally, source localisations identified a collection of cortical areas sensitive to this spatial confound, including nodes of the multiple-demand and semantic-control networks. These results indicate that AI measured on SRC procedures with the rotated hand stimuli used commonly might reflect neurocognitive mechanisms associated with spatial associations rather than imitative tendencies.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit Funding: This study has received funding from Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic under the Project CEITEC 2020 (LQ1601) and the Czech Science Foundation (grant number: GA15-16738S). The authors acknowledge the core facility MAFIL of CEITEC supported by the MEYS CR (LM2018129 Czech-BioImaging).
Uncontrolled Keywords: Automatic imitation,Orthogonal spatial compatibility,Polarity correspondence,Semantic control,Cognitive Neuroscience,Behavioral Neuroscience
Publication ISSN: 1531-135X
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2024 07:33
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2021 12:50
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: https://link.sp ... 415-020-00860-y (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2021-02
Published Online Date: 2021-01-12
Accepted Date: 2020-12-19
Authors: Czekóová, Kristína
Shaw, Daniel Joel (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-1139-8301)
Lamoš, Martin
Špiláková, Beáta
Salazar, Miguel
Brázdil, Milan



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

| Preview

Export / Share Citation


Additional statistics for this record