British Journal of Psychology

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Volume 86 Issue 2 (May 1995), Pages 161-319

On relations between perceiving, imagining and performing in the learning of cyclical movement sequences (pages 191-216)

In three experiments, the effects of observational, mental and physical practice on the performance of cyclical movement sequences were investigated. Experiment 1 revealed that repeated demonstrations of the criterion motion were sufficient for adequate reproductions of the movement form and that mental or physical practice had only small additional effects. Furthermore, consistency of movement tempo and consistency of relative timing, normally seen as dependent on physical practice, were similar in all experimental conditions at the end of practice. Experiment 2 confirmed this counter‐intuitive finding by demonstrating equivalent improvements in the consistency of relative timing after physical and mental practice and after practice in a perceptual discrimination task. In Expt 3, discrimination of a non‐ spatial version of the criterion motion from similar patterns was also found to enhance consistency, indicating that eye movements were not a crucial factor in the observed effects. The findings suggest that performance, observation and imagery of sequential patterns involve a common process, characterized as event generation, which is either coupled to an articulatory system (in the case of physical practice), synchronized with an external event (in the case of observational practice), or ‘runs free’ without such articulatory or perceptual coupling in the case of imagery.

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