Generalization of action knowledge following observational learning. Academic Article uri icon


  • Both observational and physical practices support the acquisition of motor skill knowledge in the form of spatiotemporal coordination patterns. The current experiment examined the extent that observation and physical practice can support the transfer of spatiotemporal knowledge and amplitude knowledge associated with motor skills. Evidence from a multijoint limb task revealed that knowledge about spatiotemporal patterns (relative phase) acquired by observers and models can be generalized exceptionally well within the trained arm (right) and across to the untrained arm (left). Transfer of relative phase occurred even when untrained combinations of joint amplitudes were required. This indicates that observation and physical practice both lead to the development of an effector-independent representation of the spatiotemporal knowledge in this task. Both observers and models showed some transfer of the relative amplitude knowledge, with observers demonstrating superior transfer for both a trained and untrained-arm transfer test, while the models were limited to positive transfer on an untrained-arm transfer test. The representation of movement amplitude knowledge is effector-independent in this task, but the use of that knowledge is constrained by the specific practice context and the linkage between the elbow and wrist.

published proceedings

  • Acta Psychol (Amst)

author list (cited authors)

  • Buchanan, J. J., & Wright, D. L.

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Buchanan, John J||Wright, David L

publication date

  • January 2011