Perceptual control models of pursuit manual tracking demonstrate individual specificity and parameter consistency

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Computational models that simulate individuals’ movements in pursuit tracking tasks have been used to elucidate mechanisms of human motor control. Whilst there is evidence that individuals demonstrate idiosyncratic control tracking strategies, it remains unclear whether models can be sensitive to these idiosyncrasies. Perceptual control theory (PCT; Powers, 1973) provides a unique model architecture with an internally set reference value parameter, and can be optimized to fit an individual’s tracking behavior. The current study investigated whether PCT models could show temporal stability and individual-specificity over time. Twenty adults completed three blocks of 15 one-minute, pursuit-tracking trials. Two blocks (training and post-training) were completed in one session and the third was completed after one week (follow-up). The target moved in a one-dimensional, pseudorandom pattern. PCT models were optimized to the training data using a least-mean-squares algorithm, and validated with data from post-training and follow-up. We found significant inter-individual variability (partial η2: .464-.697) and intra-individual consistency (Cronbach’s α: .880-.976) in parameter estimates. Polynomial regression revealed that all model parameters, including the reference value parameter, contribute to simulation accuracy. Participants’ tracking performances were significantly more accurately simulated by models developed from their own tracking data than by models developed from other participants’ data. We conclude that PCT models can be optimized to simulate the performance of an individual and that the test-retest reliability of individual models is a necessary criterion for evaluating computational models of human performance.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2523-2537
Number of pages14
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number8
Early online date25 Aug 2017
StatePublished - Nov 2017