Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Motor Imagery in Typing: Effects of Typing Style and Action Familiarity

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Motor Imagery in Typing: Effects of Typing Style and Action Familiarity

Article excerpt

Abstract The influences of typing style and action familiarity on executed and imagined typing were investigated. A group of touch typists and a group of hunt-and-peck typists were asked to imagine and execute typing texts of different lengths in two different styles: with ten fingers (familiar for touch typists, unfamiliar for hunt-and-peck typists) and with two fingers (unfamiliar for touch typists, familiar for huntand- peck typists). The imagination (but not the execution) of familiar and unfamiliar typing was correlated in both groups, indicating that participants used skill knowledge from the familiar action to imagine the unfamiliar action. Only when touch typists imagined familiar typing accurate motor imagery was observed (similar durations of and positive correlations between imagination and execution). When touch typists imagined unfamiliar typing, the average imagination durations resembled the execution durations, but correlations indicated individual differences in the processes of imagination and execution. Hunt-and-peck typists showed shorter imagination than execution durations with both familiar and unfamiliar typing, indicating that in both styles they did not imagine all details of typing. Also, they did not imagine some details specifically related to unfamiliar typing (reflected in particularly high percentages of absolute error). However, correlations indicated that individual difficulties in executing the unfamiliar action were reflected in the imagination durations. In conclusion, skill knowledge from familiar actions is used to imagine unfamiliar actions. Familiarity with actions promotes accurate motor imagery, but only if stable internal action representations have been acquired, and not if action control relies on online, step-by-step control. However, stable internal action representations of familiar actions may be detrimental for imagery of unfamiliar actions.

Keywords Motor imagery . Typing . Action familiarity . Skill

Motor imagery designates movements that are not executed, but instead mentally simulated as if they were (Decety, 1996; Jeannerod, 1994). In behavioral research on motor imagery, the mental chronometry paradigm is often used, in which the durations of imagined actions and executed actions are compared. This comparison relies on the assumption that similar timing of executed and imagined actions reflects similarities in the progress of unfolding actions. Similarities in timing have been reported for a variety of well-known everyday-life actions, such as writing a sentence and drawing a cube (Decety & Michel, 1989) or walking (Courtine, Papaxanthis, Gentili, & Pozzo, 2004; Decety, Jeannerod, & Prablanc, 1989).

However, tasks that entail action requirements only slightly different from their everyday counterparts may affect the timing of executed and imagined actions differentially. For instance, effort applied during executed actions for added weight is not always spontaneously imagined: Imagined walking with 25-kg weight on the shoulders increases mental walking duration (Decety et al., 1989), and adding a 2-kg weight in a visual pointing task slows imagined movements down (Cerritelli, Maruff, Wilson, & Currie, 2000), but in both cases execution durations are unaffected. Less familiar actions may also result in shorter imagination then execution durations, as in movements to awkward and uncommon postures. Here, the complexity and/or familiarity of an action may result in imagery being based on less detailed information (Parsons, 1994).

People perform actions in different ways. For example, experts in typing use ten fingers and touch type, which is the biomechanically most efficient way to type. However, nowadays, many people who type lack formal training in typing and use an idiosyncratic typing style with less than ten fingers (hunt-and-peck typists). They may even be proficient in their style, because they use it on an everyday basis. Nevertheless, skilled touch typists develop typing-specific representations that are not observed in hunt-and-peck typists. …

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