The influence of verbalization on motor control


Words have enormous power, including the ability to influence how we perceive and explore our environments. When navigating towards a target spatial information is available relative to self (egocentric) and relative to other objects in the environment (allocentric). Egocentric information is thought to be more precise, but also more transient than allocentric information. The COBALT-Control Based Learning Theory (Willingham, 1998) posits that unconscious actions rely heavily on egocentric information while conscious and controlled movements are more dependent on allocentric information. Since verbalizing target features requires explicit attentional awareness (conscious control), a higher reliance on allocentric information is expected compared to non-verbalized movements. It is therefore also plausible that verbalized actions should lead to lower movement accuracy. On the other hand, talking strategies are reported to enhance movement learning and endpoint accuracy in certain environments (Theodorakis et al., 2012; Janelle et al., 2003; Tod et al., 2009). We assessed if verbalization during movement influences the type of information used to guide the movement and investigated the effects of verbalization on endpoint accuracy. Participants made swiping gestures on a tablet to one of seven targets located along a semi-circle array. During verbalization trials participants called out the relative position of the active target (1 to 7) while performing the movement. The proportion of ego-allocentric reliance was inferred by analyzing the endpoint error distribution (Rossetti, 1998). As hypothesized, verbalization led to a higher reliance on allocentric information than the control condition, however verbalization did not have an impact on movement accuracy.

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