Motor skill

Motor skill

A motor skill is a learned sequence of movements that combine to produce a smooth, efficient action in order to master a particular task. The development of motor skill occurs in the motor cortex, the region of the cerebral cortex that controls voluntary muscle groups.

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Influences to development

Stress and arousal: stress and anxiety is the result of an imbalance between demand and the capacity of the individual. Arousal is the state of interest in the skill. The optimal performance level is moderate stress or arousal. An example of too low of arousal state is an overqualified worker performing repetitive jobs. An example of stress level too high is an anxious pianist at a recital.

Fatigue: the deterioration of performance when a stressful task is continued for a long time, similar to the muscular fatigue experienced when exercised for a rapid rate or lengthy period of time. Fatigue is caused by over-arousal. Fatigue impacts an individual in many ways: perceptual changes in which visual acuity or awareness drops, slowing of performance (reaction times or movements speed), irregularity of timing, and disorganization of performance.

Vigilance: the effect of the loss of vigilance is the same as fatigue, but is otherwise caused by the lack of arousal. Some tasks include jobs that require little work and high attention. [1]

Stages of Motor learning

The stages to motor learning is the cognitive phase, the associative phase, and the autonomous phase.

Cognitive Phase: When a learner is new to a specific task, the primary thought process starts with, “what needs to be done?” Considerable cognitive activity is required so that the learner can determine appropriate strategies to adequately reflect the desired goal. Good strategies are retained and inefficient strategies are discarded. The performance is greatly improved in a short amount of time.

Associative Phase: the learner has determined the most effective way to do the task and starts to make subtle adjustments in performance. Improvements are more gradual and movements become more consistent. This phase can last for a long time.

Autonomous Phase: this phase may take several months to years to reach. The phase is dubbed because the performer can now “automatically” complete the task without having to pay any attention to. Examples include walking and talking or sight reading while doing simple arithmetic.[2]


During the learning process of a motor skill, feedback is the positive or negative response that tells the learner how well the task was completed. Inherent feedback: after completing the skill, inherent feedback is the sensory information that tells the learner how well the task was completed. A basketball player will note that he or she made a mistake when the ball misses the hoop. Another example is a diver knowing that a mistake was made when the entrance into the water is painful and undesirable. Augmented feedback: in contrast to inherent feedback, augmented feedback is information that supplements or “augments” the inherent feedback. For example, when a person is driving over a speed limit and is pulled over by the police. Although the car did not do any harm, the policeman gives augmented feedback to the driver in order for him to drive more safely. Another example is a private tutor for a new student of a field of study. Augmented feedback decreases the amount of time to master the motor skill and increases the performance level of the prospect. Transfer of motor skills: the gain or loss in the capability for performance in one task as a result of practice and experience on some other task. An example would be the comparison of initial skill of a tennis player and non-tennis player when playing table tennis for the first time. An example of a negative transfer is if it takes longer for a typist to adjust to a randomly assigned letters of the keyboard compared to a new typist. Retention: the performance level of a particular skill after a period of no use.[2]

Types of tasks

Continuous tasks: activities like swimming, bicycling, running; the performance level is just as proficient as before even after years of no use.

Discrete tasks: an instrument or a sport, the performance level drops significantly but will be better than a new learner. The relationship between the two tasks is that continuous tasks usually use gross motor skills and discrete tasks use finer motor skills.[2]

Gross motor skills

Gross motor skill require the use of large muscle groups to perform tasks like walking, balancing, crawling. The skill required is not extensive and therefore are usually associated with continuous tasks. Much of the development of these skills occurs during early childhood. The performance level of gross motor skill remains unchanged after periods of non-use.[3]

Fine motor skills

Fine motor skill require the use of smaller muscle groups to perform tasks that are precise in nature. Activities like playing the piano and playing video games are examples of using fine motor skills. Generally, there is a retention loss of fine motor skills over a period of non-use. Discrete tasks usually require more fine motor skill than gross motor skills. [3]

See also


  1. ^ Kurtz, Lisa A. (2007). Understanding Motor Skills in Children with Dyspraxia, ADHD, Autism, and Other Learning Disabilities: A Guide to Improving Coordination (JKP Essentials Series) (Jkp Essentials). Jessica Kingsley Pub. ISBN 1-84310-865-8. 
  2. ^ a b c Lee, Timothy Donald; Schmidt, Richard Penrose (1999). Motor control and learning: a behavioral emphasis. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. ISBN 0-88011-484-3. 
  3. ^ a b Stallings, Loretta M. (1973). Motor Skills: Development and Learning. Boston: WCB/McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-697-07263-0. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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