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Using purposeful tasks to improve motor performance: does object affordance matter?

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Introduction: Purposeful activity is believed to yield better results than meaningless exercises during motor rehabilitation. The objective of this paper is to provide a narrative review of the literature regarding the influence of object affordance on motor performance, a factor that contributes to the purposefulness of a task.

Method: Thirty-five reviewed articles were selected following an online search on PubMed, Cinahl and Google Scholar and an inspection of their references. Results of reviewed studies are discussed in relation to (1) the different approaches used to increase object affordance; (2) the influence of clinical conditions on the relationship between object affordance and motor performance; and (3) the influence of object affordance on immediate motor performance vs motor learning.

Findings: The three main approaches used to increase object affordance relate to (a) the number of objects used during the task; (b) the functional information that these objects convey; and (c) the functional goals of the task. Reviewed results suggest that increasing object affordance can produce beneficial effects on immediate motor performance and motor learning, and especially support the effect of varying the number of objects. However, most evidence on object affordance has not come from high quality research.

Conclusion: Clinicians should favour the use of tasks with high object affordance during both clinical assessment and therapy in order to promote optimal motor performance. More high quality research is needed to assess the influence of object affordance during therapy and on long-term motor learning and clinical outcomes.


Document Type: Review Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4276/030802212X13433105374314

Publication date: August 1, 2012

More about this publication?
  • The British Journal of Occupational Therapy (BJOT) is the official journal of the College of Occupational Therapists. Its purpose is to publish articles relevant to theory, practice, research, education and management in occupational therapy internationally.

    BJOT publishes research articles, critical reviews, practice analyses, opinion pieces, editorials, letters to the editor, book reviews and an annual index. Please refer to the author's guide at http://www.cot.co.uk/british-journal-bjot/british-journal-occupational-therapy

    Submissions can be made at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/bjot

    The 2013 Impact Factor for The British Journal of Occupational Therapy is 0.897.

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