Observing Expertise-Related Actions Leads to Perfect Time Flow Estimations

Chen, Yin-Hua; Pizzolato, Fabio; Cesari, Paola
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
The estimation of the time of exposure of a picture portraying an action increases as a function of the amount of movement implied in the action represented. This effect suggests that the perceiver creates an internal embodiment of the action observed as if internally simulating the entire movement sequence. Little is known however about the timing accuracy of these internal action simulations, specifically whether they are affected by the level of familiarity and experience that the observer has of the action. In this study we asked professional pianists to reproduce different durations of exposure (shorter or longer than one second) of visual displays both specific (a hand in piano-playing action) and non-specific to their domain of expertise (a hand in finger-thumb opposition and scrambled-pixels) and compared their performance with non-pianists. Pianists outperformed non-pianists independently of the time of exposure of the stimuli; remarkably the group difference was particularly magnified by the pianists’ enhanced accuracy and stability only when observing the hand in the act of playing the piano. These results for the first time provide evidence that through musical training, pianists create a selective and self-determined dynamic internal representation of an observed movement that allows them to estimate precisely its temporal duration.


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