Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 215, Issue 3–4, pp 183–197

Learning through observation: a combination of expert and novice models favors learning

Research Article


Observation of an expert or novice model promotes the learning of a motor skill. In two experiments, we determined the effects of a mixed observation schedule (a combination of expert and novice models) on the learning of a sequential timing task. In Experiment 1, participants observed a novice, expert, or both novice and expert models. The results of retention/transfer tests revealed that all observation groups and a physical practice group learned the task and outperformed a control group. However, observing a novice model was not as effective as observing expert and mixed models. Importantly, a mixed schedule of novice and expert observation resulted in a more stable movement time and better generalization of the imposed relative timing pattern than observation of either a novice or expert model alone. In Experiment 2, we aimed to determine whether a certain type of novice performance (highly variable, with or without error reduction with practice) in a mixed observation schedule would improved motor learning. The observation groups performed as well as a physical practice group and significantly better than a control group. No significant difference was observed with the type of novice model used in a mixed schedule of observation. The results suggest that mixed observation provides an accurate template of the movement (expert observation) that is enhanced when contrasted with the performance of less successful models.


Observational learning Motor learning Action observation network Timing task 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département de kinésiologieUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada

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