All skilled activity depends on feedback, often through the eyes or hands, but sometimes using other senses which enable the learner to achieve a personally satisfying level of control of their activities that are producing the product.

Pottery It is very interesting to hear very skilled potters discussing just what sources of feedback enable them to achieve the various particular forms which they value. And they often have personal stories about how they eventually evolved their particular forms.

Cake Making includes a wide range of methods for obtaining the feedback which enable the cook to achieve the results that they value.

Repairing Clocks again it is very interesting to see exactly what tools different clock repairers use, and how one of them achieves their results one way, and another goes about it rather differently.

All forms of skilled activity use an often unrecognised range of sensory feedback to achieve the results: and when the instructor has such intuitive skills, they are often not able to explain these to the trainee.

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks books are probably the best example of a psychologist who most fully appreciated the variety of different perceptual forms that a person may use to help guide the particular performance of highly valued skilled activity. His books describe how greatly the perceptual feedback varies from person to person (e.g. he found that the loss of certain types of personal meaning was differently disabling from person to person).

Many of his examples show how even internationally recognised experts vary in terms of the perceptual feedback they rely upon. For example; all pianists do not use the same type of feedback to control/enable their performance (e.g. some listen to the music as they play, others monitor the feeling of their fingers as they play the piano keys; and others actually visualise the musical score completely in their head), but among his various elite clientele, each produced an internationally recognised outstanding performance.

Click here for Oliver Sacks books


Steering a destroyer in battle
During a naval personnel’s debrief of their Falklands war experience it again became clear that equally successful sailors were using very different forms of informational feedback to defend their vessels/ships.

Driving in traffic on a motorway
Driving instructors typically find that their problems in enabling people in learning how-to-drive, arise over and over again because their view of the feedback senses used by the best drivers is often challenged when meeting with other instructors.

Similarly we discovered that when groups of surfers come together there is a considerable difference and often heated exchanges which arise from the use of varied patterns of senses to become expert surfers.

As we discussed in what is SOL, there is as with all skills, a hierarchy of different sense’s being used to guide and control the playing activities of successful tennis players.

Practising escaping from a sinking submarine
(using a glass walled area where the skilled sailors could observe their trainees.) In our work with the navy, it was very interesting to hear the different ideas that trainee sailors had about the particular senses which were best used to develop the skills required.

Fighter plane ejection seat
Similarly with fighter pilots preparing to use their ejection seats.