Human Motor Behavior: An Introduction

By J. A. Scott Kelso | Go to book overview

Reaction times are the most common dependent measures used in information- processing research. Although reaction times are an important tool in understanding mental processes, they have been found to be quite sensitive to extraneous variables that are not of interest. The use of reaction times as the sole dependent measure detracts from the power and generality the approach might otherwise possess. From an applied standpoint, the use of reaction times are most impractical for the practitioner, which hinders easy transfer to the everyday world. A preoccupation with reaction times may have contributed to the neglect the processing approach has demonstrated for response variables. In practice, information-processing researchers have effectively inserted another "black box" in the model. In any case, the lack of knowledge about system output has only contributed to the preceding criticisms.

The approach has been shown to provide an impressively flexible model of performance but sheds little understanding on the changes in performance that characterize learning. We in physical education are most concerned with the circumstances surrounding learning, as evident in the quantity of research examining it. Unfortunately, the concept of skill acquisition through repeated practice has not been stressed in the model. Certainly organizational structures and mechanisms must exist in memory to account for learning when physical storage is limited and potential input is infinite. Attention to learning and the variables affecting it would increase the appeal the information-processing framework may hold for the practitioner.

The information-processing approach has also been criticized for an imbalance in the relative emphasis placed on certain aspects of performance. Recall the historical part of this discourse that characterized early research efforts as product or output oriented. In a pendular fashion, the emphasis appears to have swung toward the mental processes preceding the response. The paucity of recent research directed toward problems intrinsic to the motor system suggests that our future efforts should aim at balancing this emphasis. To understand the motor system, we must study motor issues. Thus, I feel that future research should attack performance problems with emphasis on both the preparatory processes and the effector products. Such a direction, I feel, would stress the complexity of the motor system (for example, its specification of nondiscrete parameters such as force, velocity, and acceleration), which the present information-processing framework does not communicate.


CONCLUDING COMMENTS

One of the most common observations of educators is the difficulty that individuals have in gaining insight about their own mental structures and information- processing activities. The information-processing model advanced in this chapter presents a nice way to conceptualize mental functions, partitioning them into

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