Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 349–359 | Cite as

Unreflective actions? complex motor skill acquisition to enhance spatial cognition



Cognitive science has recently moved toward action-integrated paradigms to account for some of its most remarkable findings. This novel approach has opened up new venues for the sport sciences. In particular, a large body of literature has investigated the relationship between complex motor practice and cognition, which in the sports domain has mostly concerned the effect of imagery and other forms of mental practice on motor skill acquisition and emotional control. Yet recent evidence indicates that this relationship is bidirectional: motor experience also influences higher cognition, with a broad range of cognitive abilities being impacted in various ways. In this paper, I review the latest research exploring the effect of complex motor practice on spatial cognition. After emphasizing the versatility of processes that are recruited in the acquisition of complex motor skills, I present further experimental evidence to suggest that the process of acquiring new motor skills triggers specific adaptions in the brain, which in turn can be critical in numerous aspects of daily life. Finally, I propose a mechanistic explanation to account for motor-induced improvements, within an embodied framework of cognition.


Motor cognition Embodied cognition Spatial ability Complex motor skills Cognitive training Neuroplasticity 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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