Observational Learning of a Bimanual Coordination Task: Understanding Movement Feature Extraction, Model Performance Level, and Perspective Angle



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One experiment was adminstered to address three issues central to identifying the processes that underlie our ability to learn through observation. One objective of the study was to identify the movement features (relative or absolute) extracted by an observer when demonstration acts as the training protocol. A second objective was to investigate how the performance level of the model (trial-to-trial variability in strategy selection) providing the demonstrations influences movement feature extraction. Lastly, a goal was to test whether or not visual perspective of the model by the observer (first-person or third-person) interacts with the aforementioned variables. The goal of the task was to trace two circles templates with a 90 degree relative phase offset between the two hands. Video recordings of two models practicing over three days were used to make three videos for the study; an expert performance, discovery performance, and instruction performance video. The discovery video portrayed a decrease in relative phase error and a transition from high trial-to-trial variability in the strategy selection to use of a single strategy. The instruction video also portrayed a decrease in relative phase error, but with no strategy search throughout practice. The expert video showed no strategy search with trial-to-trial variability within 5% of the goal relative phase of 90 across every trial. Observers watched one of the three video recordings from either a first-person or third-person perspective. In a retention test, the expert observers showed the most consistant capability (learning) in performing the goal phase. The instruction observers also showed learning, but to a lesser degree than the expert observers. The discovery group observers showed the least amount of learning of relative phase. The absolute feature of movement amplitude was not extracted by any observer group, results consistent with postulations by Scully and Newell (1985). Observation from the 1P perspective proved optimal in the expert and instruction observation groups, but the 3P perspective allowed for greater learning of of the goal relative phase (90 degree) in the discovery observation group. Hand lead, a relative feature of motion, was extracted by most obsevers, except those who observed the discovery model from the 3P perspective. It's concluded that the trial-to-trial variabiliy in terms of strategy selection interacted with the process of mental rotation, which prevented the extraction of hand lead in those observers that viewed the discovery model.