The term skill encompasses an array of topics and issues. For example, individuals are skilled in a variety of domains (chess, typing, air traffic control, knitting); researchers study skill in a variety of ways (speed of acquisition, accuracy of performance, retention over time), and there are a variety of approaches to the study of skill (computer modeling, experimental analysis). Contributing to the understanding of whether, how, when, and why skills may decline as a function of age is the goal of this volume.
Fisk and Kirlik, in chapter 1, set the stage by explicating the criticality of practically relevant research. The authors argue that research that addresses issues derived from real, practical problems must also be theoretically relevant. Fisher, in chapter 2, provides an elegant example of how mathematical models may be used to understand, and to predict, age-related differences in learning. His research has important implications for the development of training schedules for young and older adults.
Movement control skills are discussed in chapter 3, by Walker, Philbin, and Spruell, as well as in chapter 4 by Jagacinski. Many skills have movement control components; thus, it is crucial to understand basic age-related changes in movement control. Walker et al. investigate how individuals adjust and optimize performance to meet the restrictions of their perceptual-motor system and the task constraints. Jagacinski uses control theory to examine the stability of behaviors and suggests that an understanding of stability may provide insight for compensatory strategies.