Motor learning through observation

MSL research field: 
Skill acquisition
TitleMotor learning through observation
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsMaslovat, D, Hayes, SJ, Horn, R, Hodges, NJ
EditorElliott, D, Khan, MA
Book TitleVision and Goal-Directed Movement: Neurobehavioural Perspectives
Pagination315 -340
PublisherHuman Kinetics
CityChampaign, Il
KeywordsAction observation

Motor skill acquisition typically involves the transfer of information between instructor and learner. A common method of transfer is demonstration. Observational learning is the term for the process by which observers watch the behavior of a model and adapt their movement as a result, typically as assessed in a delayed retention test. Relevant to this review is the difference between observational learning and observational practice. Observational learning relates to a situation where a demonstration and physical practice are interleaved (i.e., observe, practice, observe). Observational practice relates to a situation that merely requires the learner to observe and does not involve physical practice. It has long been thought that observational learning is a more efficient method of learning than verbal instructions. It is considered a powerful means to transmit patterns of behavior to a learner. Compared with discovery learning, observational learning has been shown to provide both immediate performance benefits and long-term learning benefits in a range of behavioral measures. Although it is clear that observational learning can be an effective teaching tool, understanding the mechanisms underlying this process provides valuable information to optimize the use of demonstrations. In this chapter we summarize the theories, methods, and techniques that have influenced research in the field of adult observational learning. We hope this information will help researchers determine the information and processes guiding this perceptual–motor learning process. We start with some definitions followed by a review of the theoretical approaches that have guided research into observational learning, practice, and imitation. This includes an examination of traditional behaviorally based theories as well as current behavioral approaches and theories that have been guided by neurophysiology and brain imaging research. In the remaining sections we look at measures and manipulations that have been used to explore variables related to the observational learning process. The effectiveness of observation for learning appears to depend on a complex interaction among the observer, model, and task, and thus these characteristics are discussed in relation to the various methods that have been used to assess model effectiveness (e.g., movement kinematics, eye movement recording, brain imaging, point-light models).

Refereed DesignationRefereed
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