Human Motor Behavior: An Introduction

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

V
DEGREES OF FREEDOM, COORDINATIVE STRUCTURES AND TUNING

Editor's Remarks (Chapters 10, 11 and 12)

Let me introduce the Turvey, Tuller, and Fitch chapters with a conundrum borrowed from earlier discussions of behavioral studies of motor programming (see for example, Chapter 7). It is the claim based on laboratory experiments, that the more elements in a movement sequence there are, the longer it takes to get the sequence started. Reaction time, say the time to lift the finger off a button, increases as the complexity of the program increases. But what do we mean by a complex skill? Does adding on movement elements necessarily implicate a more complicated program? Intuitively, there seems something wrong with this analysis. It's like saying that by adding on to the number of wheels on a cycle (e.g., going from a unicycle to a tricycle) one makes riding more complicated! Years ago, Bernstein--whose work is discussed more fully in Chapters 10 and 11-- showed that the sprinter reacts to the starter's gun with the same latency as it takes to lift a finger off a button. Yet, the sprinter has to perform a highly coordinated activity involving a large number of muscles and body segments (plenty of "elements"!). One answer to the dilemma is that the skilled athlete has discovered ways to reduce the degrees of freedom of the motor system, so that the action is performed as

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