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Introduction and Overview


            ner. This account does not assume the acquisition of rather sophisticated causal knowledge,
            nor a decision-maker who deliberates on selecting goals and means. Goal-directed action is
            simply believed to result from the ability to form bidirectional associations between actions
            and outcomes, which capture a history of cooccurrences of acting and perceiving the result-  1
            ing events. Similarly, the initiation of goal-directed behavior would not require any deliber-
            ation or even intentions. As the case of mimicry suggests, behaviors could be activated by
            merely perceiving their associated outcomes or events.
            Outline of the Dissertation

                    The current dissertation critically examines the evidence for this mechanistic ac-
            count for goal-directed behavior. The addressed questions are basically two-fold: First, is
            ideomotor learning indeed the result of bidirectional associations formed as a result of re-
            peated cooccurrence of actions and outcomes? And second, are ideomotor effects on action
            indeed the result of mere activation of the outcome representation.

                    Chapter 2 examines the evidence for ideomotor action obtained in the literature
            featuring the two-stage paradigm inspired by Greenwald's work (1970). The argument starts
            that while the learning phase in this paradigm was designed with the mechanistic account
            and Hebbian learning in mind (i.e., hundreds of trials in which usually two finger press-
            es each produce a specific sensory outcome), this learning phase does not rule out other
            forms of learning. That is, every box is ticked to facilitate the formation of bidirectional as-
            sociations through mere repetition. However, people can also easily make inferences about
            the causal structure of the task (e.g., pressing the left finger causes a high-pitched tone),
            based on which the hypotheses or propositions about the relations between actions and
            outcomes can be formed. Likewise, although the mechanistic account would indeed predict
            that stimuli related to the outcomes featured in the learning phase would bias behavior in
            the direction of the associated action, other explanations for these effects can be offered.
            Putting together, these arguments provide support for the assumption that the actual evi-
            dence for the mechanistic account of ideomotor actions is relatively thin, to say the least,
            and that more work is needed to put this account to the test.

                    Chapter 3 investigates in line with this reasoning to which extent learning in the
            two-stage paradigm is spontaneous (Sun et al., 2020). Even though learning should be the
            result of mere cooccurrence of actions and outcomes, instructions almost always emphasize
            the causal nature of the relation between actions and the events that follow them. Further-
            more, two different forms of testing for ideomotor effects are used: the Free Choice Task,
            in which people can freely choose which action to perform, and the Forced Choice Task, in
            which people have to react to an imperative stimulus with an instructed response.

                    While both tasks are used frequently in the literature,  only Experiment 1 featuring
            the Free Choice Task produced the ideomotor effect. That is, when stimuli that previously
            served as outcomes in the acquisition phase were presented together with the imperative
            stimuli in the Free Choice Task, it could bias action towards the corresponding responses.
            This effect occurred regardless of whether the instructions emphasized the causal nature


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