Stonetool Study Dataset

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Topping, Kristel
Wheaton, Lewis A.
Stout, Dietrich
Pargeter, Justin
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Stone tool making is a unique human motor skill dating back to the Paleolithic. It provides the earliest evidence of complex motor skills and social learning. Learning to intentionally shape a stone into a functional tool is thought to rely on the interaction of action observation and individual practice to support motor skill acquisition, but the emergence of adaptive and efficient perceptual processes during the observational learning of such a novel motor skill are not well understood. By examining eye movements and motor skills, the current study sought to evaluate the relationship between perceptual and motor processes related to approximately 90 hours of training on stone tool making. Participants’ (n = 11) gaze and motor performance were assessed at three different training time points: naïve (0 hours of training), post 1 (50 hours of training), post 2 (~90 hours of training). Gaze patterns reveal a transition from high gaze variability during initial observation to lower gaze variability after training. Furthermore, perceptual changes were strongly associated with motor performance improvement suggesting a coupling of perceptual and motor processes during motor learning, in order to attend to the technologically informative aspects of the tool making task. The complex emergence of perceptual-motor coupling in this study emphasizes the importance of naturalistic skill learning studies to understand real-world perceptual-motor interactions and technological skill development. This study also highlights “evolutionary neuroscience” methods for reliably reconstructing ancient motor-skill processes from archaeological evidence.
National Science Foundation (DRL-1631563 and SBE-SMA-1328567) and John Templeton Foundation (47994)
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