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Evidence from experiments with single objects indicates that perceiving objects leads to automatic extraction of affordances. Here we examined the influence of implied between-object actions on affordance processing. Images of task-irrelevant object pairs (e.g., a spoon and a bowl) were followed by imperative central targets. Participants made speeded left/right responses to targets, and the responses randomly aligned with the affordance of one of the objects. The orientation of one object was manipulated across trials, leaving the colocation between objects correct or incorrect for potential interaction. Four experiments demonstrated that positioning the objects correctly for between-object actions led to a prioritization of the object active in the action (e.g., the spoon) over the passive (e.g., the bowl) object. Moreover, there was an inhibitory effect on responses to the passive object: responses congruent with the passive object were slower when pairs of objects were shown as if in interaction, compared with when they were not. The effects did not change in the single-hand response task but disappeared when the passive objects were absent-though an affordance should still have been presented by the active object. These results present evidence for affordance selection in action-related object pairs, and suggest inhibition of the action afforded by the passive objects under conditions of affordance competition.

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform

Publication Date





1021 - 1036


Adult, Female, Humans, Inhibition (Psychology), Male, Motor Activity, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Psychomotor Performance, Young Adult