Prolonged response time helps eliminate residual errors in visuomotor adaptation

Psychon Bull Rev. 2021 Jun;28(3):834-844. doi: 10.3758/s13423-020-01865-x. Epub 2021 Jan 22.


One persistent curiosity in visuomotor adaptation tasks is that participants often do not reach maximal performance. This incomplete asymptote has been explained as a consequence of obligatory computations within the implicit adaptation system, such as an equilibrium between learning and forgetting. A body of recent work has shown that in standard adaptation tasks, cognitive strategies operate alongside implicit learning. We reasoned that incomplete learning in adaptation tasks may primarily reflect a speed-accuracy tradeoff on time-consuming motor planning. Across three experiments, we find evidence supporting this hypothesis, showing that hastened motor planning may primarily lead to under-compensation. When an obligatory waiting period was administered before movement start, participants were able to fully counteract imposed perturbations (Experiment 1). Inserting the same delay between trials - rather than during movement planning - did not induce full compensation, suggesting that the motor planning interval influences the learning asymptote (Experiment 2). In the last experiment (Experiment 3), we asked participants to continuously report their movement intent. We show that emphasizing explicit re-aiming strategies (and concomitantly increasing planning time) also lead to complete asymptotic learning. Findings from all experiments support the hypothesis that incomplete adaptation is, in part, the result of an intrinsic speed-accuracy tradeoff, perhaps related to cognitive strategies that require parametric attentional reorienting from the visual target to the goal.

Keywords: Asymptote; Explicit strategies; Motor planning; Response time; Sensorimotor adaptation.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Young Adult