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On Central Processes in the Temporal Control of Movement


Barrett, Christopher Louis (1986) On Central Processes in the Temporal Control of Movement. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/9jgx-pa60.


Various applied problems in the areas of manual control and biosystems analysis involve the desire to noninvasively monitor cognitive processes during task performance. This thesis addresses the general problem that the usual methods and assumptions of biosystems analysis may not strictly apply where psychological functioning exhibits a controlling influence on behavior. An experimental situation is proposed as such a case, in which the percept of duration seems to have controlling influence on the timing of a fingertap.

The major themes in theories of motor behavior are surveyed and their reference to higher processes examined. A useful taxonomy of mental processes is outlined to clarify the nature of the processes involved.

The notion of representation is basic to the characterization of mental processes. Prevalent views on the relationship of representation and behavior are assessed, leading to a formalization of representation in which a probability measure on the representational structure can be understood as a model of belief or subjective expectation. The model of representation is constructive and satisfies the taxonomy of mental representation.

An information measure and channel analogy of central processes is formed using the probability measure. The channel analogy leads to a definition of representational event. The representational event is used to formalize the idea of a subjectively constant clocktime interval from which first-order predictions of central process effects on periodic behaviors of subjectively constant rate derive. A fingertapping experiment was undertaken to verify these predictions. Two levels of cognitive influences on finger tapping were discernible. The conformance of the data to the predictions suggests that the developments of this thesis could be useful to biosystems and human factors analyses of cognitive level phenomena underlying behavior.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Engineering Science; Bioinformation Systems
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Bioinformation Systems
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Fender, Derek H.
Thesis Committee:
  • Fender, Derek H.
  • Caughey, Thomas Kirk
  • Martel, Hardy Cross
  • Hamilton, Charles R.
  • White, C. T.
Defense Date:21 August 1985
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-03262008-085846
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:1153
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:04 Apr 2008
Last Modified:16 Apr 2021 22:17

Thesis Files

PDF (Barrett_cl_1986.pdf) - Final Version
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