Skilled motor control of an inverted pendulum implies low entropy of states but high entropy of actions

Nicola Catenacci Volpi, Martin Greaves, Dari Trendafilov, Christoph Salge, Giovanni Pezzulo, Daniel Polani, Samuel J. Gershman (Editor)

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The mastery of skills, such as balancing an inverted pendulum, implies a very accurate control of movements to achieve the task goals. Traditional accounts of skilled action control that focus on either routinization or perceptual control make opposite predictions about the ways we achieve mastery. The notion of routinization emphasizes the decrease of the variance of our actions, whereas the notion of perceptual control emphasizes the decrease of the variance of the states we visit, but not of the actions we execute. Here, we studied how participants managed control tasks of varying levels of difficulty, which consisted of controlling inverted pendulums of different lengths. We used information-theoretic measures to compare the predictions of alternative accounts that focus on routinization and perceptual control, respectively. Our results indicate that the successful performance of the control task strongly correlates with the decrease of state variability and the increase of action variability. As postulated by perceptual control theory, the mastery of skilled pendulum control consists in achieving stable control of goals by flexible means.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1010810
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number1
Early online date6 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2023


  • Research Article
  • Engineering and technology
  • Physical sciences
  • Computer and information sciences
  • Biology and life sciences
  • Social sciences
  • Movement
  • Humans
  • Entropy
  • Orientation, Spatial
  • Postural Balance


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