The Effect of Similarity: Non-Spatial Features Modulate Obstacle Avoidance


The introduction of non-target objects into a workspace leads to temporal and spatial adjustments of reaching trajectories towards a target. If the non-target is obstructing the path of the hand towards the target, the reach is adjusted such that collision with the non-target, or obstacle, is avoided. Little is known about the influence of features which are irrelevant for the execution of the movement on avoidance movements, like color similarity between target and non-target objects. In eye movement studies the similarity of non-targets has been revealed to influence oculomotor competition. Because of the tight neural and behavioral coupling between the gaze and reaching system, our aim was to determine the contribution of similarity between target and non-target to avoidance movements. We performed 2 experiments in which participants had to reach to grasp a target object while a non-target was present in the workspace. These non-targets could be either similar or dissimilar in color to the target. The results indicate that the non-spatial feature similarity can further modify the avoidance response and therefore further modify the spatial path of the reach. Indeed, we find that dissimilar pairs have a stronger effect on reaching-to-grasp movements than similar pairs. This effect was most pronounced when the non-target was on the outside of the reaching hand, where it served as more of an obstacle to the trailing arm. We propose that the increased capture of attention by the dissimilar obstacle is responsible for the more robust avoidance response.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059294

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@inproceedings{Menger2013TheEO, title={The Effect of Similarity: Non-Spatial Features Modulate Obstacle Avoidance}, author={Rudmer Menger and H. Chris Dijkerman and Stefan Van der Stigchel}, booktitle={PloS one}, year={2013} }