The Motor-Cognitive Model of Motor Imagery: Evidence From Timing Errors in Simulated Reaching and Grasping

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Motor imagery represents an important but theoretically underdeveloped area of research in psychology. The motor-cognitive model of motor imagery was presented, and contrasted with the currently prevalent view, the functional equivalence model. In 3 experiments, the predictions of the two models were pitted against each other through manipulations of task precision and the introduction of an interference task, while comparing their effects on overt actions and motor imagery. In Experiments 1a and 1b, the motor-cognitive model predicted an effect of precision whereby motor imagery would overestimate simulated movement times when a grasping action involved a high level of precision; this prediction was upheld. In Experiment 2, the motor-cognitive model predicted that an interference task would slow motor imagery to a much greater extent than it would overt actions; this prediction was also upheld. Experiment 3 showed that the effects observed in the previous experiments could not be due to failures to match the motor imagery and overt action tasks. None of the above results were explainable by either a strong version of the functional equivalence model, or any reasonable adaptations thereof. It was concluded that the motor-cognitive model may represent a theoretically viable advance in the understanding of motor imagery.

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