Scaling a Motor Skill Through Observation and Practice

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The authors examined the proposal that a motor skill is scaled through physical practice and not through observation of a model. In 4 groups, participants (N = 32) did or did not imitate a model bowling a ball to a target 8 m away. In an assessment phase, those groups did or did not observe the same model bowling a ball to a target 4 m away. Participants who viewed a model in the assessment phase were more accurate and consistent in terms of bowling accuracy than were those who did not. Their shoulder and wrist velocity profiles were more similar to those of the 4-m model than were those of the no-model group. Participants who had previous practice and viewed a demonstration were more accurate at scaling the wrist of the bowling arm. Observing a demonstration facilitates the acquisition of control-related features of a movement. Furthermore, early acquisition of coordination aids the use of velocity information for scaling the endpoint of the primary effector.



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