Planned Actions Improve the Way We Process Information

Photo: Fruits 

Researchers of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) have shown that using a grabbing action with our hands can help our processing of visual information.

“The research is still at an early stage,” cautions Ed Symes of Plymouth University. “But our next step is to see how these results might inform ways of helping children with severe learning difficulties.”

The discovery was made in an experiment on what is known as “change blindness”. Think of spot the difference games – researchers use the problem of seeing changes in almost identical pictures to see if preparing to act can help us to spot these changes.

The study found that if people were asked to look at two pictures of fruit alternating on a computer screen, they noticed which fruit was different quicker if they were going to grasp an object similar in size of the fruit. Symes found that the “intention” to grasp something helps with the processing of visual information.

Symes asked his participants to look at pictures of both large and small fruits – apples, oranges, pears, lemons, mangos, apricots, strawberries and gooseberries. When the participants detected which fruit had changed, the participants had to grasp one of two devices. The key to this was that one device was similar in size of the small fruit and the other was similar in size of the big fruit.

The study found that the intention to grasp the small device helped participants notice changes in the smaller fruits quicker. Similarly, the brain processing that occurred in preparing to grasp the large device meant that participants noticed the changes in the larger fruits quicker.

Symes explains this might help to improve the communication skills of children with complex physical and mental special needs. The first problem in assisting such children is assessing what they understand about the world, when they have no reliable means of communicating. They may not be able to speak and may have limited physical capabilities.; Source: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

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