The inhibition of motor contagion induced by action observation

Tatsuya Takeuchi, Sachi Ikudome, Satoshi Unenaka, Yasumitsu Ishii, Shiro Mori, David L. Mann, Hiroki Nakamoto

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In sports, success and failure are believed to be contagious. Yet it is unclear what might cause contagion. This study investigated whether motor contagion is associated with the active observation of the kinematic actions of others. In Experiment 1, six skilled hammer throwers threw a hammer after watching a video of a model throwing toward the left, center, or right. The video included two types of action kinematics which resulted in throw directions that were either easy or difficult to predict based on the model's kinematics. In Experiment 2, the athletes threw hammers after watching the same stimuli as Experiment 1, but while engaging in one of two types of focus (self-focus or non-self-focus) to determine whether motor contagion could be diminished. Results demonstrated that the direction of each participant's throw was more influenced by the videos that contained easy action kinematics, supporting a critical role for the meaningfulness of the link between an action and its outcome in producing motor contagion. Motion analysis revealed that motor contagion was not likely to be a result of the observer imitating the model's action kinematics. The contagion observed in Experiment 1 disappeared when participants engaged in self-focus. These results suggest that motor contagion is influenced by the predictability of an action outcome when observing an action, and that motor contagion can be inhibited through self-focus when observing.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0205725
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2018


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