Observational practice of relative but not absolute motion features in a single-limb multi-joint coordination task. Academic Article uri icon


  • The learning of relative and absolute motion features as a function of physical (actor group) and observational (observer group) practice was examined in a rhythmic single limb multi-joint coordination task. The task required the participants to learn a 90 degrees relative phase pattern between the elbow and wrist in combination with an absolute elbow joint angle of 80 degrees and a wrist joint angle of 48 degrees . Each actor practiced the required relative and absolute motion features for 2 days while being watched by an observer. Overall, the actor group was characterized by an improvement in performance on the relative phase component and showed a clear differentiation in joint amplitudes. In a 24-h retention test, the observer group more closely matched the performance of the actors on the relative phase component in comparison to a control group that was not exposed to physical or observational practice. However, the observer and control groups did not demonstrate a clear differentiation in required joint amplitudes. In agreement with Scully and Newell (1985), we conclude that relative phase may be classified as a relative motion feature that may be picked through observation and benefit initial physical performance, whereas the joint amplitudes may be classified as absolute motion features that require physical practice to achieve the appropriate scaling.

published proceedings

  • Exp Brain Res

author list (cited authors)

  • Buchanan, J. J., Ryu, Y. U., Zihlman, K., & Wright, D. L.

citation count

  • 35

complete list of authors

  • Buchanan, John J||Ryu, Young U||Zihlman, Kirk||Wright, David L

publication date

  • January 2008