Motor Learning Lecture 2
Lab Due Dates: Fridays, before midnight
- Basic Measures- Sept. 21
- Performance Measures- Sept. 28 th
- Multisensory- Oct. 5 th
- Performance and Learning- Oct. 12 Not on midterm
How do we design learning environments? We want someone to perform AND learn
as best as possible.
- The learning environment must be EFFORTFUL at a physiological and a
o Some drills train the muscles, while others train the sensory-motor
and cognitive-motor processes.
- In this course, we will answer the following question: How can we improve
the SENSORY-MOTOR processes in LEARNING (as opposed to performing).
Chapter 1 Objectives:
- Know the origins of motor behaviour (fields and people)
o Know the names and dates in lecture
- Comprehend and apply the 4 task classification criteria
- Evaluate Gentile’s 2D classification system
- Know and understand Newell’s model
- Distinguish learning from performance
The Ubiquity of Motion
- Everything we do on a day-to-day basis requires muscle contraction ($5
o There is a spatial goal. The muscles must contract the right amount. If
they contract too much or not enough, you do not produce the desired
- Innate vs. Acquired
o Some motor skills are innate while others are acquired
o Sometimes, you must voluntarily inhibit a reflex to facilitate a desired
o Staring: Automatic AND learning processes. Most eye movements are
involuntary (we divert attention to sounds, etc.).
o Many skills require voluntary muscle actions (ex. gymnastics)
Origins of Motor Behaviour (Bryan and Harter, 1897)
- Research represents 90 weeks of work (unique! Due to limited funding, most
data is short) o Much more realistic as intervention (in learning) takes a long time.
- Graph: The acquisition of Morse Code
o You can send more letters per minute than you can receive in Morse
o Power Law of Practice: The logarithm of the reaction time for a
particular task decreases linearly with the logarithm of the number of
practice trials taken. Qualitatively: Increased practice has diminishing
o Between weeks 16-20, there seems to be a plateau in receiving. We
can reach performance plateaus. Explanation: After this plateau, we
begin encoding symbols as words instead of characters, which speeds
up the process of receiving.
Origins of Motor Behaviour (Woodworth, 1899)
- What do trajectories look like? He did not have a motion trajectory system.
- Experiment: Following a metronome, trace a line from top to bottom.
- There are some trajectory discontinuities towards the end of the movement.
There is acceleration towards the target (ballistic phase), then, as you
approach the target, there are some corrections that are taking place
(current control phase).
- This is a kinematic analysis: displacement over time.
Neurophysiologic Approach to Motor Control (Sherrington, Nobel Prize 1932)
- Interested in proprioception (He coined the term).
o Very hard to study because it is within the human. It is very difficult to
demonstrate. We would need to lacerate the dorsal roots of the spinal
Why did psychologists abandon motor behaviour research in the 1960s?
- Because Hull’s Drive Theory was wrong!
o Drive theory: motivation theory based on the principle that organisms
are born with certain psychological needs. Needs activate drives,
which in turn active behaviour. Behaviour is therefore goal directed,
and achieving it has a survival value.
- Most impactful paper came in 1975. This is a very young field; not an exact
- Motor behaviour arose from the field of psychology.
Franklin Henry (1904-1993)
- Kept motor behaviour in the research field
- “Father of Modern Motor Behaviour in North America”
- Neuroscience, etc. Motor Behaviour can be subdivided into motor control, motor learning, and
- Motor Control: The study of neural, physical, and behavioral aspects of
- Motor Learning: A set of internal processes associated with practice or
experience leading to relatively permanent changes in the capability for
- Motor Development:
Classes of Motor Skills
1) Gross vs. Fine
- Everything is relative. Is one skill more gross/fine relative to another?
- Ex. Kicking a ball (gross) vs. walking on a beam (middle) vs. foot painting
- Define learning environment differently to facilitate the acquisition of
2) Discrete, Serial, Continuous
- More difficult to implement motor learning in continuous skills! It is much
easier in discrete.
3) Open vs. Closed
- Open skill: The environment is unpredictable (ex. hockey)
- Closed skill: The environment is predictable (ex. archery)
4) Motor vs. Cognitive
- Motor skill: Decision making minimized, motor control maximized
- Cognitive skill: Decision making maximized, motor control minimized
Gentile’s 2D Classification
What is Gentile’s 2D Classification?
- Considers both the requirements of:
o 1) The action (body transport and object manipulation)
o 2) The demands of the environment
Degree to which the environment is stationary or in motion
High for open skills; low for closed skills
Extent to which environment changes from one performance
attempt to the next (“context variability)
Possible in both open and closed skills.
- The two components of each dimension are combined in various ways to
form 16 task categories. Designed orginially for physical therapy settings.
- In table, complexity increases from left to right and top to bottom. o Easiest: maintain erect position (no body transport, no object
manipulation) and context is always a therapist’s office (environment
is stationary and not changing from one visit to the next).
o Hardest: Tossing and catching a beanbag (object manipulation) with a
partner while walking (body transport). On each occasion, the partner
would toss the beanbag (environment in motion; not stable) a
different way each time (changes from one performance to the next).
- Complete Exercise 1.2 Classifying Skills in Two Dimensions
Newell’s Model (1986)
- Alternative to Theory of Attribution
- Success/Failure has to do with the integration of individual constraints
(function or structural), task constraints, and environmental constraints.
- Ex. Dunking a basketball
o Individual constraints
Functional: Unable to jump
o Task Constraints: Can’t dribble.
o Environmental Constraints: Game situation
- **Not much you can do about individual constraints (functional and
structural). You have MUCH MORE CONTROL over task and environmental
- This model is a good way of identifying the problem.
In case of failure, which factors should be investigated first? Task.
Learning vs. Performance
- Motor Performance: directly observable
o Varies with motivation, focus, and fatigue
- Motor Learning: not directly observable. It is inferred from performance.
o Internal process
o Performance stability. Are you capable of repeatedly producing the
same level of accuracy?
Definition: A set of processes associated with practice or experience leading to a
relatively permanent change in the ca