Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 173-196

First online:

Metabolic energy expenditure and the regulation of movement economy

  • W. A. SparrowAffiliated withSchool of Human Movement, Deakin University Email author 
  • , K. M. NewellAffiliated withPennsylvania State University


Over the years, various psychological theories have embraced notions ofeconomy, efficiency, orleast effort to explain how complex movement sequences are organized and modified. The purpose of the present paper was to synthesize various perspectives on this issue, to identify a common hypothesis, and to propose a conceptual framework that explains how movement economy is regulated. The framework presented here postulates that adaptive movement patterns emerge as a function of the organism’s propensity to minimize metabolic energy expenditure with respect to task, environment, and organism constraints to action. An important role is also proposed for interoceptive sensory information in guiding motor skill learning and control. The paper concludes by suggesting future directions in four areas of movement economy research that contribute to understanding the learning and control of movement in both human and nonhuman organisms.