Dexterity and Its Development

By Michael T. Turvey; Nicholai A. Bernstein et al. | Go to book overview

The Primacy of Action in Development

Edward S. Reed Franklin & Marshall College

Blandine Bril École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

In this chapter, we focus on Bernstein's account of motor learning, because we believe that it is especially in this part of his theorizing that Bernstein was most radical and provocative, offering ideas that are still "ahead of their times" in many ways. The account of motor learning offered in On Dexterity and Its Development carries the seeds of a radical shift in how to think about the acquisition of skill. For Bernstein, functional actions are primary, and the control of movements and postures are secondary. Movements are not the building blocks of action; instead, the control of movements is one of the results of the development of action. Although we are convinced that this insight about the primacy of action is fundamental for any successful functional theory of action, it is still the case that the majority of textbooks and theorists in the field of motor control and development resist such a radical approach ( Schmidt, 1982).

We argue that a theory placing action as primary in development is the only kind that can really help theorists to begin to understand how many of the important, culturally specific skills that characterize human beings have evolved and developed. After situating Bernstein On Dexterity in its historical and theoretical context, we briefly describe how the traditional kinds of accounts of motor development emphasize movements and repetitions of movement as the basic factor in development and skill acquisition. After this, we show how Bernstein, in On Dexterity, began to turn such theories "on their heads." Following this, we offer some suggestions concerning how an action-based theory of development may be very useful in helping theorists to understand one of the

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Dexterity and Its Development
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Resources for Ecological Psychology ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Resources for Ecological Psychology ix
  • Series Dedication x
  • Part I on Dexterity and Its Development 1
  • Introduction 3
  • Essay 1 What Is Dexterity? 9
  • Essay2 on Motor Control 25
  • Essay3 on the Origin of Movements 45
  • Essay 4 on the Construction of Movements 97
  • Essays 5 Levels of Construction of Movements 115
  • Essay 6 on Exercise and Motor Skill 171
  • Essay 7 Dexterity and Its Features 207
  • From the Author 237
  • Part II Commentaries 245
  • N. A. Bernstein: the Reformer of Neuroscience 247
  • References 275
  • The Bernstein Problem: How Does the Central Nervous System Make Its Choices? 277
  • On the Biomechanical Basis of Dexterity 305
  • Dynamics of Bernstein's Level of Synergies 339
  • Dexterity in Cascade Juggling 377
  • Change in Movement and Skill: Learning, Retention, and Transfer 393
  • Further Reading 429
  • The Primacy of Action in Development 431
  • References 450
  • Author Index 453
  • Subject Index 457
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