Does active experience

facilitate learning

at all ages?


To better understand whether or not learning through active experience facilitates learning at all ages, we have conducted several studies that show that even adults learn novel objects and sounds better if they are able to actively interact with objects during learning.   Associations among visual and motor systems facilitate learning, and create networks in the brain that reflect this enhanced learning. Some of our findings include:

1) Adults recognize objects better when they are able to actively manipulate them.

James, T.W., Humphrey, G.K., James, K.H. & Goodale, M.A. (2005). Do visual and tactile object representations share the same neural substrate? M.A. Heller and S. Ballesteros (Eds.), Touch and Blindness: Psychology and Neuroscience.  Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.     (PDF)


James, K.H., Humphrey, G.K., Vilis, T., Baddour, R., Corrie, B. & Goodale, M.A. (2002). “Active” and “passive” learning of three-dimensional object structure within an immersive virtual reality environment. Behavioral Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 34 (3), 383-390.     (PDF)


James, K.H., Humphrey, G.K. & Goodale, M.A. (2001).  Manipulating and Recognizing Virtual Objects: Where the Action Is. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 55 (2), 111-120.      (PDF)


Harman, K.L., Humphrey, G.K. & Goodale, M.A.  (1999).  Active manual control of object views facilitates visual recognition. Current Biology, 9 (22), 1315-1318.     (PDF)


Harman, K.L. & Humphrey, G.K. (1999).  Encoding ‘regular’ and ‘random’ sequences of views of novel, three-dimensional objects. Perception, 28, 601-615. doi:10.1068/p2924 (PDF)

2) Additionally, adults are better able to associate sounds with objects.

Butler, A.J. & James, K.H. (2012). Active Learning of Novel Sound-producing Objects: Motor Reactivism and Enhancement of Visuo-motor Connectivity. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 25(2), 203-218.

doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00284   (PDF)

Much of this early work led to our studies on the development of object understanding through visually-guided action.

Cognition & Action Neuroimaging Lab | 1101 E. 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405 | (812)856-7237 |