Virtual reality for action observation does not enhance motor learning of a complex weightlifting task


Action observation, where a learner observes a model demonstrating a skill, has long been established in the literature as an effective means to acquire motor skills. Developments in virtual reality technology have made it possible for a 3D action observation viewing perspective, theoretically providing a viewing experience similar to observing a live performer. However, very little work has compared these two media and their effects on motor learning outcomes. In this current study, healthy novice participants to Olympic lifting (specifically the clean and jerk; n = 36) learned the exercise through observing a model demonstration in virtual reality (3D group) or on a computer screen (2D group). A third group (control) did not engage in action observation. Results indicate that following training, the 2D group more frequently used a three-step lifting pattern, and the 2D and 3D groups lifted with a significantly greater horizontal displacement compared with the control group. Also, the 2D group was more likely to use a proximal-to-distal joint coordination strategy during the second pull of the exercise. These results further the idea that only small parts of pertinent visual information are needed for action observation, and that virtual reality may provide too much information to novice learners.

Journal of Motor Learning and Development