We tested how observation of a skilled pattern of planar movements can assist in the learning of a new motor skill, which otherwise requires rigorous long-term practice to achieve fast and smooth performance. Sixty participants performed a sequence of planar hand movements on pre-test, acquisition, post-test and 24 h post-training blocks, under 1 of 4 conditions: an observation group (OG), a slowed observation group (SOG), a random motion control group (RMCG) and a double physical training control group (DPTCG). The OG and SOG observed an expert model’s right hand performing the study task intermittently throughout acquisition, RMCG observed random dots movement instead of a model. Participants in the DPTCG received extra physical practice trials instead of the visually observed trials. Kinematic analysis revealed that only in conditions with observation of an expert model there was an instant robust improvement in motor planning of the task. This step-wise improvement was not only persistent in post-training retests but was also apparently implicit and subject to further incremental improvements in movement strategy over the period of 24 hours. The rapid change in motor strategy was accompanied by a transient within-session increase in spatial error for the observation groups, but this went away by 24 h post-training. We suggest that observation of hand movements of an expert model coaligned with self-produced movements during training can significantly condense the time-course of ecologically relevant drawing/writing skill mastery.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Thanks to Adi Ben-Zeev for performing the data collection. Thanks to Silvi Frenkel-Toledo for assistance in the initial stages of the project. Tel Aviv University is gratefully acknowledged for partially funding this project.
© 2019, The Author(s).
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