This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 07 table of contents.

Summary: Motor Activity

Motor intelligence is a specialized form of information processing. Psychologists study motor learning with pieces of equipment such as the pursuit rotor apparatus and mirror tracing apparatus. The acquisition of a motor skill typically follows an S-shaped curve, with number of practice trials plotted against a measure of skill. Motor routines can be analyzed into subroutines. Skilled movements are creative products; even a simple behavior such as the pecking motion of a bird is never the same twice. Motor production and motor imagination are intertwined. Perhaps because of mirror neurons that respond to the sight of movements by other creatures, people and animals experience motor empathy and easily engage in observational learning of movements.

When a motor skill is practiced, it usually becomes simplified and eventually automatic. Both of these trends increase efficiency of movement. Highly practiced skills like typing and piano playing involve motor coordination far too fast for conscious control of individual movements. A degree of automaticity is necessary for the performance of many complex motor skills.

Automaticity and creativity are linked, because creativity requires the bottom-up assembly of complex wholes that have never before existed and therefore cannot be fully specified in advance. Motor routines practiced to the point of automaticity, like the finger movements of musicians or the body movements of athletes, lend themselves to creative improvisation. Motor errors or "actions not as planned" (ANAPs) are, in the words of Reason (1979), "the price of automatization."


Write to Dr. Dewey at psywww@gmail.com.

Don't see what you need? Psych Web has over 1,000 pages, so it may be elsewhere on the site. Do a site-specific Google search using the box below.

Custom Search

Copyright © 2007-2011 Russ Dewey