To pass or not to pass: modeling the movement and affordance dynamics of a pick and place task

Maurice Lamb*, Rachel W. Kallen, Steven J. Harrison, Mario Di Bernardo, Ali Minai, Michael J. Richardson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Humans commonly engage in tasks that require or are made more efficient by coordinating with other humans. In this paper we introduce a task dynamics approach for modeling multi-agent interaction and decision making in a pick and place task where an agent must move an object from one location to another and decide whether to act alone or with a partner. Our aims were to identify and model (1) the affordance related dynamics that define an actor's choice to move an object alone or to pass it to their co-actor and (2) the trajectory dynamics of an actor's hand movements when moving to grasp, relocate, or pass the object. Using a virtual reality pick and place task, we demonstrate that both the decision to pass or not pass an object and the movement trajectories of the participants can be characterized in terms of a behavioral dynamics model. Simulations suggest that the proposed behavioral dynamics model exhibits features observed in human participants including hysteresis in decision making, non-straight line trajectories, and non-constant velocity profiles. The proposed model highlights how the same low-dimensional behavioral dynamics can operate to constrain multiple (and often nested) levels of human activity and suggests that knowledge of what, when, where and how to move or act during pick and place behavior may be defined by these low dimensional task dynamics and, thus, can emerge spontaneously and in real-time with little a priori planning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1061
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJUN
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • affordance dynamics
  • behavioral dynamics
  • dynamical systems theory
  • joint-action
  • pick and place


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