Behavioral and Brain Sciences

The Theory of Event Coding (TEC): A framework for perception and action planning

Bernhard Hommel a1a2, Jochen Müsseler a2, Gisa Aschersleben a2 and Wolfgang Prinz a2
a1 Section of Experimental and Theoretical Psychology, University of Leiden, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands
a2 Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research, D-80799 Munich, Germany


Traditional approaches to human information processing tend to deal with perception and action planning in isolation, so that an adequate account of the perception-action interface is still missing. On the perceptual side, the dominant cognitive view largely underestimates, and thus fails to account for, the impact of action-related processes on both the processing of perceptual information and on perceptual learning. On the action side, most approaches conceive of action planning as a mere continuation of stimulus processing, thus failing to account for the goal-directedness of even the simplest reaction in an experimental task. We propose a new framework for a more adequate theoretical treatment of perception and action planning, in which perceptual contents and action plans are coded in a common representational medium by feature codes with distal reference. Perceived events (perceptions) and to-be-produced events (actions) are equally represented by integrated, task-tuned networks of feature codes – cognitive structures we call event codes. We give an overview of evidence from a wide variety of empirical domains, such as spatial stimulus-response compatibility, sensorimotor synchronization, and ideomotor action, showing that our main assumptions are well supported by the data.

Key Words: action planning; binding; common coding; event coding; feature integration; perception; perception-action interface.