Revisiting Fitts and Peterson (1964): Width and amplitude manipulations to the reaching environment elicit dissociable movement times. Academic Article uri icon

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  • The classic theorem of Fitts (1954) asserts that the combined effects of movement amplitude and target width (index of difficulty: ID) define movement times (MTs) for goal-directed reaches. Moreover, Fitts' theorem states that reaches yielding the same ID produce equivalent MTs regardless of the response's amplitude and width combination. However, most work providing direct support for Fitts' theorem has employed short movement amplitudes and small target widths. Thus, no direct evidence supports the unitary nature of MT/ID relations across a range of amplitudes and widths used in contemporary studies of goal-directed reaching. To that end, we contrasted MT/ID relations for discrete reaches equated for movement ID but differing with respect to their amplitude (15.5, 19, 25.5, and 38 cm) and width (2, 3, 4, and 5 cm) requirements. Results show that amplitude and width manipulations yielded robust linear MT/ID relations; however, the slope of the MT/ID function was markedly steeper in the former (amplitude=92 ms; width=13 ms). Such findings indicate that the constituent elements of movement ID are dissociable and that the fixed parameter nature of Fitts' theorem cannot be applied to a continuous range of veridical movement amplitudes and target widths.


  • Heath, Matthew
  • Weiler, Jeffrey
  • Marriott, Kendal A
  • Elliott, Digby
  • Binsted, Gordon

publication date

  • December 2011