Scientific Reports (Nov 2021)

The influence of vitality forms on action perception and motor response

  • G. Lombardi,
  • J. Zenzeri,
  • G. Belgiovine,
  • F. Vannucci,
  • F. Rea,
  • A. Sciutti,
  • G. Di Cesare

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 1
pp. 1 – 9


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Abstract During the interaction with others, action, speech, and touches can communicate positive, neutral, or negative attitudes. Offering an apple can be gentle or rude, a caress can be kind or rushed. These subtle aspects of social communication have been named vitality forms by Daniel Stern. Although they characterize all human interactions, to date it is not clear whether vitality forms expressed by an agent may affect the action perception and the motor response of the receiver. To this purpose, we carried out a psychophysics study aiming to investigate how perceiving different vitality forms can influence cognitive and motor tasks performed by participants. In particular, participants were stimulated with requests made through a physical contact or vocally and conveying rude or gentle vitality forms, and then they were asked to estimate the end of a passing action observed in a monitor (action estimation task) or to perform an action in front of it (action execution task) with the intention to pass an object to the other person presented in the video. Results of the action estimation task indicated that the perception of a gentle request increased the duration of a rude action subsequently observed, while the perception of a rude request decreased the duration of the same action performed gently. Additionally, during the action execution task, accordingly with the perceived vitality form, participants modulated their motor response.