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Visual discrimination of interacting human agents

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Although the ability to interpret and predict other people’s actions is believed to play a central role in human cognitive behavior, there is no direct evidence that this ability confers a tangible benefit to sensory processing. This talk describes quantitative behavioral experiments showing that visual discrimination of a human agent is influenced by the presence of a second agent. This effect depends on whether the two agents interact (by fighting or dancing) in a meaningful synchronized fashion that allows the actions of one agent to serve as predictors for the expected actions of the other agent, even though synchronization is irrelevant to the visual discrimination task. These results demonstrate that action understanding has a pervasive impact on the human ability to extract visual information from the actions of other humans, providing quantitative evidence of its significance for sensory performance.

This talk is part of the Craik Club series.

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