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Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 06 December 2012 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00539

Similar mechanisms of movement control in target- and effect-directed actions toward spatial goals?

  • 1Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
  • 2Institute for Psychology, University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology, Hall in Tirol, Austria

Previous research has shown that actions conducted toward temporal targets and temporal effects are controlled in a similar way. To investigate whether these findings also apply to spatially restricted movements we analyzed movement kinematics of continuous reversal movements toward given spatial targets and toward self-produced spatial effects in two experiments. In Experiment 1 target- and effect-directed movements were investigated in three different goal constellations. A spatial target/effect was always presented/produced on one movement side, on the other side either (a) no target/effect, (b) the same target/effect, or (c) a more difficult target/effect was presented/produced. Results showed that both target-directed and effect-directed movements have a typical spatial kinematic pattern and that both can be equally well described by linear functions as suggested by Fitts’ Law. However, effect-directed movements have longer movement times. In Experiment 2 participants performed target-directed movements to the one side and effect-directed movements to the other side of a reversal movement. More pronounced spatial kinematics were observed in effect-directed than in target-directed movements. Together, the results suggest that actions conducted toward spatial targets and spatial effects are controlled in a similar manner. Gradual differences in the kinematic patterns may arise because effects are cognitively more demanding. They may therefore be represented less accurately than targets. However, there was no indication of qualitative differences in the cognitive representations of effects and targets. This strengthens our assumption that both targets and effects play a comparable role in action control: they can both be viewed as goals of an action. Thus, ideomotor theories of action control should incorporate action targets as goals similar to action effects.

Keywords: action targets, action effects, motor control, visual-spatial action goals, movement kinematics, ideomotor theory

Citation: Walter AM and Rieger M (2012) Similar mechanisms of movement control in target- and effect-directed actions toward spatial goals? Front. Psychology 3:539. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00539

Received: 26 June 2012; Accepted: 13 November 2012;
Published online: 06 December 2012.

Edited by:

Roland Pfister, Julius-Maximilians-University of Würzburg, Germany

Reviewed by:

Bettina E. Bläsing, Bielefeld University, Germany
David Dignath, University of Wuerzburg, Germany

Copyright: © 2012 Walter and Rieger. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Andrea M. Walter, Department of Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Stephanstr. 1a, D–04103 Leipzig, Germany. e-mail: awalter@cbs.mpg.de