Are movements prepared in parts? Not under compatible (naturalized) conditions

J Exp Psychol Gen. 1980 Dec;109(4):475-95. doi: 10.1037//0096-3445.109.4.475.


This set of experiments is concerned with the specification of movement parameters hypothesized to be involved in the initiation of movement. Experiment 1 incorporated the precuing method developed by Rosenbaum in which a precue provided partial information of the upcoming movement before the stimulus to move. Under conditions in which precues were provided by letter symbols and stimuli were color-coded dots mapped to response keys. Rosenbaum found reaction times to be slower for the specification of arm than for direction, and both to be slower than the specification of extent. In Experiment 1, using precue and stimulus conditions that paralleled those employed by Rosenbaum, we obtained very similar findings. The three follow-up experiments extended these findings to more naturalized stimulus-response compatible conditions. We used a method in which precues and stimuli were directly specified through vision and mapped in a one-to-one manner with responses. In Experiment 2, although reacion times decreased as a function of the number of parameters precued, there were no systematic effects of precuing particular parameters. In Experiments 3 and 4, we incorported an ambiguous precue that, while serving to reduce task uncertainty, failed to provide any specific information as to the arm, direction, or extent of the upcoming movement. Initiation times did not systematically vary as a function of the type of parameter precued nor were there significant differences between specific and ambiguous precue conditions. In sum, only in Experiment 1 in which precues and stimuli involved complex cognitive transformations was there support for Rosenbaum's parameter specification model. When we employed highly compatible conditions, designed to reflect a real-world environment, we failed to obtain any tendency for movement parameters to be serially specified. We discuss grounds for suspecting the generality of parameter specification models and propose an alternative approach that is consonant with the dynamic characteristics of the motor control system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology
  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Motor Skills* / physiology
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology