Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 237, Issue 6, pp 1421–1430 | Cite as

Emergence of anticipatory actions in a novel task

  • Oliver HerbortEmail author
  • Wilfried Kunde
Research Article


Humans normally adapt earlier segments of multistep motor actions in such a way that the execution of later segments is facilitated. For example, the kinematics of grasping movements are adapted to the requirements of the intended subsequent object manipulations. Here we studied which factors foster adaptation of earlier action segments to later ones in a novel task for which no prior experience existed. Participants executed a two-step isometric force production task, in which the force produced in the first segment determined the difficulty of the second segment. Adaptation of the first segment to the second one benefited from explicit knowledge of the dependency between both segments but not from extensive prior experience with the second segment. These observations show that adaptation of motor actions to subsequent actions demands the construction of a task representation that allows to plan the first action segment with respect to its successor. How specifically the first segment is tailored to the second one does not depend on prior experience with the second segment but depends on experience from performing the interdependent two-step action sequence.


Motor control Action planning Anticipatory action Action sequences Isometric force 



We thank Georg Schüssler and Albrecht Sebald for technical support and Lorena Fleischmann for preparing and running the experiment.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (MP4 3982 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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