The timing of mentally represented actions

Behav Brain Res. 1989 Aug 1;34(1-2):35-42. doi: 10.1016/s0166-4328(89)80088-9.


The performance of subjects walking blindly to previously inspected visual targets (located at 5, 10 or 15 m from the subjects) was studied in 2 experiments. In Expt. 1, subjects selected as good visual imagers were instructed to build up a mental representation of the target. Then they had to either actually walk or imagine themselves walking to the target. Walking time was measured in both the actual and the mental performance. It was found that subjects took almost exactly the same time in the two conditions. Accuracy of these subjects was also measured in the actual walking task. They were found to make no direction errors and to slightly overshoot target location. Subjects from another, control, group, who received no instructions about visual imagery made much larger errors. In Expt. 2, actual and mental walking times were measured in the same subjects as in Expt. 1, while they carried a 25-kg weight on their shoulders. In this condition, actual walking time was the same as in Expt. 1, although mental walking time was found to increase systematically by about 30%. These results are discussed in terms of the neural parameters encoded in the motor program for actually executing or mentally performing an action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention
  • Distance Perception*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Kinesthesis*
  • Male
  • Orientation
  • Physical Exertion
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Sensory Deprivation
  • Time Perception*