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Summary: Motor Activity

Motor intelligence is a specialized form of information processing. Psychologists study motor learning with pieces of equipment such as the pursuit rotor apparatus and mirror tracing apparatus.

The acquisition of a motor skill typically follows an S-shaped curve, with practice trials plotted against a measure of skill. Motor routines can be analyzed into subroutines, and sub­routines may themselves have sub­routines.

Skilled movements are creative prod­ucts; even a simple behavior such as the pecking motion of a bird is never the same twice. Motor production and motor imagination are intertwined.

Perhaps because of mirror neurons responding to the sight of movements by other creatures, people and animals experience motor empathy. They easily engage in observational learning of movements.

When a motor skill is practiced, it usually becomes simplified and eventually automatic. Both of these trends increase efficiency of movement.

Highly practiced skills like typing and piano playing involve movements too fast for individual control by the brain. A degree of automaticity is necessary for the performance of many motor skills.

Automaticity and creativity are linked, because creativity requires the bottom-up assembly of complex wholes. Any­thing that has never existed before cannot be fully specified in advance (an insight from William James).

Once motor routines are practiced to the point of automaticity, like the finger movements of musicians or the body movements of athletes, they lend themselves to creative improvisation. Motor errors or "actions not as planned" (ANAPs) are, in the words of Reason (1979), "the price of automatization."


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