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Visual information in the acquisition of goal-directed action

This is an excerpt from Vision and Goal-Directed Movement by Digby Elliott & Michael Khan.

In the last few decades, a modest number of empirical investigations have been designed to identify factors influencing the use of visual information as a function of practice. During the same time, we have also observed significant debates about the use of visual information during movement execution—that is, open-loop versus closed-loop motor control models (e.g., Plamondon & Alimi, 1997, versus Elliott, Carson, Goodman, & Chua, 1991; see Elliott, Helsen, & Chua, 2001, for a review). Comparatively less attention has been devoted to whether the utilization of visual information decreases or increases as a function of practice. This is probably because the question of the use of visual information during a single trial is still not fully resolved.

After providing background information about the importance of visual feedback throughout practice, this chapter explores issues related to the use of multisensory information, attentional processes, individual differences, mental practice, and the amount of practice related to skill acquisition. These issues are used to build an argument in favor of promoting research on motor learning in order to stimulate motor control research and vice versa. For instance, some motor control models propose that visual information is important during the execution of even very rapid movements (e.g., Elliott et al., 1991). Because performers are continually trying to improve their performance over a series of movement attempts, understanding how the use of this information changes over these attempts (i.e., practice) is fundamental to the processes of limb control that occur within a single discrete movement (e.g., Elliott, Hansen, Mendoza, & Tremblay, 2004). Conversely, determining how sensory information is employed during a single movement (i.e., motor control research) can help optimize protocols for motor skill acquisition. Thus, this chapter also demonstrates the potentially symbiotic nature of motor control and motor learning research.