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Dignath, David; Born, Gregory; Eder, Andreas; Topolinski, Sascha and Pfister, Roland (2020): Imitation of action-effects increases social affiliation. In: Psychological Research-Psychologische Forschung, Vol. 85, No. 5: pp. 1922-1933

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Imitating someone's actions influences social-affective evaluations and motor performance for the action model and the imitator alike. Both phenomena are explained by the similarity between the sensory and motor representations of the action. Importantly, however, theoretical accounts of action control hold that actions are represented in terms of their sensory effects, which encompass features of the movement but also features of an action's consequence in the outside world. This suggests that social-affective consequences of imitation should not be limited to situations in which the imitator copies the model's body movements. Rather, the present study tested whether copying the perceived action-effects of another person without imitating the eventual body movements increases the social-affective evaluation of this person. In three experiments, participants produced visual action-effects while observing videos of models who performed either the same or a different movement and produced either the same or a different action-effect. If instructions framed the action in terms of the movement, participants preferred models with similar movements (Experiment 1). However, if instructions framed the action in terms of the to-be produced action-effect in the environment, participants preferred models with similar action-effects (Experiments 2 and 3). These results extend effect-based accounts of action control like the ideomotor framework and suggest a close link between action control and affective processing in social interactions.

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