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Research Area - Action and Perception

Action and Perception

A central focus of our research at the nemolab is on the coupling of perception and action. In both everyday life and sport performance, successfully performing target-oriented and planned actions depends essentially on precisely linking and matching information from the external world with proprioceptive information. This becomes particularly evident in aiming tasks such as basketball free-throws, football penalties, or team handball penalties. In this context, we are examining how visual information can affect the accuracy of the movement outcome. This especially concerns sports tasks performed under time pressure. The need for quick responses makes the ability to predict an opponent’s movement outcome the key to success. In sport psychology, this capacity for prediction has also been labeled “anticipation.” We are analyzing how tennis players gain information about the shot direction of an opponent’s serve and how goalkeepers may detect deceptive movements and the shot direction in penalties. A major aim in nemolab research is to increase the complexity of experimental settings in order to produce realistic simulations. To that end, we have started to run experiments in VR settings. One particular line of research is also using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to focus on neural processes during anticipation.

One main goal of perception research is to understand the mechanisms underlying the observation and imitation of human movements. An important theoretical background to this research is the concepts of internal models and mental simulation, and, in particular, analyzing how these concepts extend our understanding of the observation and imagery of human movements. In this context, research on motor imagery, understood as an important basis for mental training programs, is a major cornerstone of our research program.

A key technique with which to study the observation of human movements is point-light displays. Using this method makes it possible to reduce the display of a movement to largely kinematic details. The movement of a person is depicted by a few dots representing the trajectories of the joints. We are studying how a person’s intentions can be derived from her or his kinematics. One recent research question is investigating how people’s emotional states are represented in kinematic information and how manipulating this information alters our perception.