Information Processing and Constraints-based Views of Skill Acquisition: Divergent or Complementary?

in Motor Control
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Since the middle of the nineteenth century, movement scientists have been challenged to explain processes underlying the control, coordination, and acquisition of skill. Information processing and constraints-based approaches represent two distinct, often perceived as opposing, views of skill acquisition. The purpose of this article is to compare information processing and constraints-based approaches through the lens of Fitts’ three-stage model and Newell’s constraints-based model, respectively. In essence, both models can be identified, at least in spirit, with ideas about skill described by Bernstein (1967, 1996). Given that the product of “skill acquisition” is the same, although the explanation of the processes might differ, it is perhaps not surprising that similarities between the models appear greater than the differences. In continuing to meet the challenge to explain skill acquisition, neural-based models provide a glimpse of the cutting edge where behavior and biological mechanisms underpinning processes of control, coordination, and acquisition of skill might meet.

Anson and Davids are with the School of Physical Education, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Elliott is with the Dept of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, L8S 4M4 Canada.

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