Concepts and Issues in Human Motor Behavior: Coming to Grips with the Jargon
J. A. Scott Kelso Haskins Laboratories and The University of Connecticut
As I mentioned at the beginning of the previous chapter, even the layman has some idea of what the word "skill" means: Most of us are used to observing top-class athletic performance and establishing that as our criterion for skilled behavior. Many of us less-gifted individuals flock to the bookstores to purchase what the star performer has to say about the secrets behind his/her athletic success. The man on the street sees skill--not for what it intrinsically involves--but rather in terms of its results. Thus, athletes are considered highly skilled based on their performance, whether it be a high batting average, a run of victories on the pro golf tour, or a maximum score on the parallel bars in gymnastics.
But I for one am often overwhelmed by the aesthetic qualities of skilled behavior. I can only stare in wonderment at the speed and coordination with which the violinist, Yehudi Menuhin, can move his hands, or the balance and grace displayed by Nadia Comeneche on a beam measuring only 4 inches wide. It's a good idea to keep in mind what we as students of motor behavior are trying to explain, because it forces us to delve deeper into the nature of movement coordination and control. Skill implies spatial precision: The appropriate sets of muscles for a given activity must be ordered correctly. Also, skill has a temporal or timing component; not only do muscles have to function in the proper sequence, but they have to operate at the right time. In reality, however, the spatial and timing components of skill are not really independent, although we may often try to separate them in the laboratory. Actions are performed in a space-