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Previous research has indicated a potential discontinuity between monkey and human ventral premotor-parietal mirror systems, namely that monkey mirror systems process only transitive (object-directed) actions, whereas human mirror systems may also process intransitive (non-object-directed) actions. The present study investigated this discontinuity by seeking evidence of automatic imitation of intransitive actions--hand opening and closing--in humans using a simple reaction time (RT), stimulus-response compatibility paradigm. Left-right and up-down spatial compatibility were controlled by ensuring that stimuli were presented and responses executed in orthogonal planes, and automatic imitation was isolated from simple and complex orthogonal spatial compatibility by varying the anatomical identity of the stimulus hand and response hemispace, respectively. In all conditions, action compatible responding was faster than action incompatible responding, and no effects of spatial compatibility were observed. This experiment therefore provides evidence of automatic imitation of intransitive actions, and support for the hypothesis that human and monkey mirror systems differ with respect to the processing of intransitive actions.

Original publication




Journal article


Brain Cogn

Publication Date





44 - 50


Adult, Automatism, Electromyography, Female, Functional Laterality, Humans, Imitative Behavior, Male, Motor Neurons, Psychomotor Performance, Reaction Time, Spatial Behavior, Visual Fields