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Yigal Agam, Henry Galperin, Brian J. Gold, Robert Sekuler; Learning to imitate novel motion sequences. Journal of Vision 2007;7(5):1. doi: 10.1167/7.5.1.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Many imitative behaviors entail complex sequences of component actions that must be recalled and performed in the proper order. It is well known that imitation of complex actions tends to improve with repeated opportunities to observe and execute the target behavior. But what actually makes this practice-based improvement possible? To address this question, we had subjects view and then reproduce sequences of connected, randomly directed motions of a disc. Even a single repetition of a motion sequence substantially reduced errors in reproduction. Improvement seemed to follow a power law, with accuracy in reproducing each motion segment improving by an amount proportional to the current error for that segment. Analysis of the pauses separating a reproduction's segments suggests that with learning, multiple segments in memory are grouped into more compact representations. To test overt performance's contribution to repetition-based improvement, we compared subjects' performance when they reproduced the stimulus trajectory after each repetition to when they did so only once, after the final repetition. Performance was similar following the final repetition in both conditions, indicating that seeing the model, without actual imitation, was sufficient for learning—even in the absence of an explicit error signal. In another experiment, subjects viewed three presentations of each model, with the second presentation given in forward (start to end) or backward (end to start) order. Performance was significantly better when all three presentations were in the same, consistent order, suggesting that repetition reinforced some temporal aspects of a trajectory as it was being learned, and not merely a better representation of the static shape traced by the motion of the disc. These results provide a first look into explicit learning of sequential, nonverbal material, which is central to many tasks of daily life.
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