Throwing in the dark: improved prediction of action outcomes following motor training without vision of the action.

Research paper by Desmond D Mulligan, Nicola J NJ Hodges

Indexed on: 13 Nov '13Published on: 13 Nov '13Published in: Psychological research


Traditional models of action understanding emphasise the idea that long-term exposure to a wide array of visual patterns of particular actions allows for effective action anticipation or prediction. More recently, a greater emphasis has been placed on the motor system's role in the perceptual understanding and prediction of action outcomes. There have been attempts to isolate the contributions of visual and motor experience in action prediction, but to date, these studies have relied on comparisons of motor-visual experience to visual-only (observational) experience. We conducted a learning study, where visual experience was directly manipulated during practice. Novice participants practised throwing darts to 3 specific areas of a dartboard. A group trained without vision of their action, only feedback about the final landing position, significantly improved in their ability to predict the landing position of a thrown dart, from temporally occluded video clips. The performance of this 'no-vision' group did not differ from a Full-vision group and was significantly more accurate than an observation-only and a no-practice control group (with the latter two groups not improving pre- to post-practice). These results suggest that motor experience specifically modulates the perceptual prediction of action outcomes. This is thought to occur through simulative mechanisms, whereby observed actions are mapped onto the observer's own motor representations.