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J Mot Behav. 2002 Jun;34(2):99-125.

Variability of determinism in motor behavior.

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Department of Psychology, University of Cincinnati, Mail Location 0376,Cincinnati, OH 45221-0376, USA.


In investigations into perception-action systems, variability of observable behavior may be considered to (a) interfere with inquiry, (b) be neither detrimental nor particularly useful to inquiry, or (c) play a crucial role in inquiry. The authors underscore recent suggestions that alternative (c) is a preferred strategy for the study of many motor behaviors. In tutorial fashion, the authors review the concepts of variability and determinism with respect to postural and rhythmic movements. Study of the variability of those behaviors has revealed crucial features suggestive of underlying mechanisms and control, such as particular blends of noise and determinism (piecewise determinism). It has also revealed general lessons (for example, more variable does not mean more random and more controllable does not mean more deterministic) that may extend to other classes of perceptual behavior.

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