Procedural Learning through Action Observation: Preliminary Evidence from Virtual Gardening Activity in Intellectual Disability
Intellectual disability (ID) compromises intellectual and adaptive functioning. People with an ID show difficulty with procedural skills, with loss of autonomy in daily life. From an embodiment perspective, observation of action promotes motor skill learning. Among promising technologies, virtual reality (VR) offers the possibility of engaging the sensorimotor system, thus, improving cognitive functions and adaptive capacities. Indeed, VR can be used as sensorimotor feedback, which enhances
... which enhances procedural learning. In the present study, fourteen subjects with an ID underwent progressive steps training combined with VR aimed at learning gardening procedures. All participants were trained twice a week for fourteen weeks (total 28 sessions). Participants were first recorded while sowing zucchini, then they were asked to observe a virtual video which showed the correct procedure. Next, they were presented with their previous recordings, and they were asked to pay attention and to comment on the errors made. At the end of the treatment, the results showed that all participants were able to correctly garden in a real environment. Interestingly, action observation facilitated, not only procedural skills, but also specific cognitive abilities. This evidence emphasizes, for the first time, that action observation combined with VR improves procedural learning in ID.