End-state comfort trumps handedness in object manipulation

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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance






American Psychological Association

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A goal of research on human perception and performance is to explore the relative importance of constraints shaping action selection. The present study concerned the relative importance of two constraints that have not been directly contrasted: (1) the tendency to grasp objects in ways that afford comfortable or easy-to-control final postures; and (2) the tendency to grasp objects with the dominant rather than the nondominant hand. We asked participants to reach out and grasp a horizontal rod whose left or right end was to be placed into a target after a 90° rotation. In one condition, we told participants which hand to use and let them choose an overhand or underhand initial grasp. In another condition, we told participants which grasp to use and let them choose either hand. Participants sacrificed hand preference to perform the task in a way that ensured a comfortable or easy to control thumb-up posture at the time of object placement, indicating that comfort trumped handedness. A second experiment confirmed that comfort was indeed higher for thumb-down postures than thumb-up postures. A third experiment confirmed that the choice data could be linked to objective performance differences. The results point to the importance of identifying constraint weightings for action selection and support an account of hand selection that ascribes hand preference to sensitivity to performance differences. The results do not support the hypothesis that hand preference simply reflects a bias to use the dominant hand. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

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