Karl M. Newell
Pennsylvania State University
Observing individuals engage in action through the life span leads inevitably to the realization that certain properties of movement forms and their outcomes persist over time whereas others tend to change. Persistence is evident in that some properties of movement sequences remain essentially invariant to a given action, whereas other properties vary either systematically or unsystematically. Furthermore, the fact that similar properties of movement sequences are evident in different actions suggests that the persistence of movement organization is present across activity categories. Bernstein, in his lifetime collection of writings on the physiology and mechanics of human movement, sketched out the significance of change and persistence for a theory of movement coordination, control, and skill. Some new elements of his theoretical framework for the learning and performance of movement skills have been introduced here, in this volume on dexterity and its development.
Bernstein did not use the labels persistence and change in his theorizing, but these terms capture issues central to his theoretical framework of human movement--a perspective that has gained in recognition as his writings have become increasingly available to a broader audience. A measure of Bernstein's significant but delayed impact on the field of motor control may be deduced from the fact that the issue of movement coordination is often articulated today as "Bernstein's problem." It should be noted, however, that he has received less recognition for his ideas on the focus of this chapter--the learning, retention, and transfer of movement skill--than for his other ideas. The publication of this volume may help compensate for this imbalance of perspective, given the centrality of the construct of