In discrete aiming movements the task criteria of time-minimization to a spatial target (e.g., Fitts, 1954) and time-matching to a spatial-temporal goal (e.g., Schmidt et al., 1979) tend to produce different functions of the speed-accuracy trade-off. Here we examined whether the task-related movement speed-accuracy characteristics were due to differential space-time trade-offs in time-matching, velocity-matching and time-minimizing task goals. Twenty participants performed 100 aiming trials for each of 15 combinations of task-type (3) and space-time condition (5). The prevalence of the primary types of sub-movement (none, pre-peak, post-peak, undershooting and overshooting) was determined from the kinematics of the movement trajectory. There were comparable distributions of trajectory sub-movement profiles and space-time movement outcomes across the three tasks at the short movement duration that became increasingly dissimilar over decreasing movement velocity and increasing movement time conditions. Movement time was the most influential variable in mediating sub-movement characteristics and the spatial/temporal outcome accuracy and variability of discrete aiming tasks – a role that was magnified in the explicit task demands of time-matching. The time-matching and time-minimization task goals in discrete aiming induce qualitatively different control processes that progressively contribute beyond the minimal time conditions to task-specific space-time accuracy and variability characteristics of the respective movement speed-accuracy functions.
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