The Automaticity Of Motor Behaviour Essay

1343 words - 5 pages

When we begin to acquire a new motor skill, we discover that during the first stages we often have to focus on the mechanics of the skill, in order to carry it out. As a person with an extensive history within dance, I can describe this as the complexity of thoughts when learning a new dance move. The mind seems to focus on the individual aspects of the skill, fine tuning and correcting any mistakes made. Often after a period of training and practice, the step becomes what some would term 'second nature', and it seems like there is no thought process to this, rather the body just does the required motor skill without obvious cognitive process. This is termed as automaticity, yet why and how does this happen?Automaticity has been well discussed since its beginnings through theorists such as William James and M. Leon Dumont. Dumont described automaticity as being compared to paper 'it costs less trouble to fold...when it has been folded already...Just so, the impressions of outer objects fashion for themselves in the nervous system more and more appropriate paths, and these vital phenomena recur under similar excitements from without, when they have been interrupted a certain time.' (Cited: James 1890). William James wrote about it in the Chapter called 'Habit' (1890), and in this chapter he theorized that 'the phenomena of habit in living beings are due to the plasticity of the organic materials of which their bodies are composed' (James 1890). He explained that habit (or in other words, automaticity) occurs when currents run through the hemispherical cortex, and that they leave traces in the paths they take, which do not easily disappear (James, 1890). Whilst these certain definitions of how automaticity takes place may be contested, the idea that our bodies perform functions without conscious thought got many people thinking about this process.In order to understand automaticity, we need to understand the development of it through the stages of skill learning. Fitts and Posner's Three-Stage Model describes a trio of stages through which a person goes through in order to achieve automaticity in a motor skill (1967). The first stage is known as the cognitive stage. They theorized that the first stage is 'marked by a large number of errors in performance, and the nature of the errors being committed tends to be gross' (Magill, 1993 ). This stage is also marked by the fact that even though the learner understands that they are making mistakes, they are unable to understand what exactly they are doing incorrectly in order to correct it. The second stage described by Fitts and Posner is called the associative stage. They theorized that this stage occurs when 'many of the basic fundamentals or mechanics of the skill have to some extent been learned...the errors are fewer and less gross in nature.' (Magill, 1993 ).The learner can now during this stage recognize some of their own errors, however the errors still occur. The third stage is called the...

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