The Psychology of Reaching: Action Selection, Movement Implementation, and Sensorimotor Learning

Annu Rev Psychol. 2021 Jan 4;72:61-95. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010419-051053. Epub 2020 Sep 25.


The study of motor planning and learning in humans has undergone a dramatic transformation in the 20 years since this journal's last review of this topic. The behavioral analysis of movement, the foundational approach for psychology, has been complemented by ideas from control theory, computer science, statistics, and, most notably, neuroscience. The result of this interdisciplinary approach has been a focus on the computational level of analysis, leading to the development of mechanistic models at the psychological level to explain how humans plan, execute, and consolidate skilled reaching movements. This review emphasizes new perspectives on action selection and motor planning, research that stands in contrast to the previously dominant representation-based perspective of motor programming, as well as an emerging literature highlighting the convergent operation of multiple processes in sensorimotor learning.

Keywords: action selection; computational models; motor planning; movement execution; reaching; sensorimotor learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Movement*