Task difficulty and inertial properties of hand-held tools: An assessment of their concurrent effects on precision aiming

  • Silva Paula L.
  • Bootsma Reinoud J.
  • Figueiredo Priscilla Rezende Pereira
  • Avelar Bruna Silva
  • de Andrade André Gustavo Pereira
  • Fonseca Sérgio T.
  • Mancini Marisa Cotta


Aiming hand-held tools at targets in space entails adjustments in the dynamical organization of aiming patterns according to the required precision. We asked whether and how these adjustments are modified by the tool's mass distribution. Twelve participants performed reciprocal aiming movements with a 50-cm long wooden probe. Kinematic patterns of probe movements were used as a window into the behavioral dynamic underlying performance of a reciprocal aiming task. We crossed three levels of task difficulty (IDs 2.8, 4.5 and 6.1) with two types of probe varying in their mass distribution (proximal vs distal loading). Movement duration was affected by task difficulty and probe loading (shorter for larger targets and proximal probe loading). Progressive deviations from a sinusoidal movement pattern were observed as task difficulty increased. Such deviations were more pronounced with proximal probe loading. Results point to a higher degree of non-linearity in aiming dynamics when the probe was loaded proximally, which might reflect employment of additional perceptualmotor processes to control the position of its less stable tip at the vicinity of the targets. More generally, the effects of probe loading on aiming pattern and dynamics suggest that perceptual-motor processes responding to task level constraints are sensitive to, and not independent from, biomechanical, end-effector constraints.