Too good to be true? Ideomotor theory from a computational perspective

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In recent years, Ideomotor Theory has regained widespread attention and sparked the development of a number of theories on goal-directed behavior and learning. However, there are two issues with previous studies' use of Ideomotor Theory. Although Ideomotor Theory is seen as very general, it is often studied in settings that are considerably more simplistic than most natural situations. Moreover, Ideomotor Theory's claim that effect anticipations directly trigger actions and that action-effect learning is based on the forma-tion of direct action-effect associations is hard to address empirically. We address these points from a computational perspective. A simple computational model of IdeomotorThe-ory was tested in tasks with different degrees of complexity.The model evaluation showed that Ideomotor Theory is a computationally feasible approach for understanding efficient action-effect learning for goal-directed behavior if the following preconditions are met: (1) The range of potential actions and effects has to be restricted. (2) Effects have to follow actions within a short time window. (3) Actions have to be simple and may not require sequencing. The first two preconditions also limit human performance and thus support Ideomotor Theory. The last precondition can be circumvented by extending the model with more complex, indirect action generation processes. In conclusion, we suggest that IdeomotorTheory offers a comprehensive framework to understand action-effect learning. However, we also suggest that additional processes may mediate the conversion of effect anticipations into actions in many situations. © 2012 Herbortand Butz.




Herbort, O., & Butz, M. V. (2012). Too good to be true? Ideomotor theory from a computational perspective. Frontiers in Psychology, 3(NOV).

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