By Grover Whitehurst
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Additional info for The Functions of Language and Cognition
It is easy to find examples supporting this view of what happens as skills develop. I have used exam ples of an athlete and a musician. An elegant empir ical demonstration was provided by Stern (1977), who analyzed a film of a boxing match, measuring the reaction time of each boxer to punches thrown by the other. 9) indicate that a professional boxer typically reacts to a punch al most before the opponent'sfistbegins to move. The commonly measured "human reaction time" on the order of about half a second has no place here.
Feedback-control loops play a central role in models of human skill de veloped by Deutsch (1960), Bernstein (1967), and Welford (1968), and the analogy with computer programs has been with us since before the modern computer was invented (Craik, 1943). Neisser's (1976) reformulation of his theory of perceptual processing stresses the cyclic as opposed to linear relation between stimulus and perceiver. In addition to its guidance function, this kind of feedback seems to be important for learning.
Instead of happening all at once or in random order, the component re sponses and the sensory control monitoring the responses are organized hierarchically like a com puter program whose subroutines are embedded within it at appropriate points. The sequence test-operate-test-exit is purely a superficial one, functions inferred from a series of acts as they might be observed in real time. What is specified in the nervous system is not a sequence of tests or a sequence of movements. Its result, as manifest in observed behavior, is a series of acts but is more parsimoniously described in terms of a hierarchical organization with embedded sub routines.