Clinical Pilates in Practice: Learning to Explore (September 2021)


This review focuses on the contributions made by exploratory behaviors to skilled perception and action. 


Hacques, Guillaume et al. “Exploring to learn and learning to explore.” Psychological research, 10.1007/s00426-020-01352-x. 10 May. 2020, doi:10.1007/s00426-020-01352-x



  • Exploratory activities are those that generate information about the association between environmental factors and action capabilities.
  • Exploration describes the active process by which individuals disclose information during control of action.
  • In ecological psychology, information resides as patterns in ambient arrays (mechanical, acoustic, and optical).
    • These ambient arrays specify the relationship between the individual and his/her environment.
  • When information is relevant to the relationship between an individual and their environment, they perceive opportunities for action.
  • Through exploratory-perpetual motor activity, individuals can discover information that can help them adapt to the environment.
  • Exploratory actions are aimed at scanning the environment for information while performing actions alters the environment.
  • The distinction between exploratory and performatory activities helps us understand how infants develop their action systems and perceive new affordances.
  • Research observing climbing (sport) distinguish between exploratory and performatory actions:
    • Actions that lead to the displacement of the climber are deemed performatory, otherwise they are deemed exploratory.
    • Both exploratory and performatory visual and haptic movements increase in high anxiety conditions. 
    • When climbers are placed in high-anxiety conditions, they perform at a level equivalent to a novice.
  • The ability to anticipate the future state of the environment in relation to the individual is a characteristic of all animals, and is an especially necessary skill to perform sports at a high level.
  • The prospective control of action occurs through information-movement coupling.
    • This enables continuous adjustment between an individual and their environment, allowing them to achieve the task/goal.

Exploratory activity is not only an information-gathering activity that occurs before the start of performatory actions; it is also embedded throughout the activity.

  • Exploratory activity tends to decrease with practice.
  • Performance activity also decreases as individuals become more skilled.
  • If information is not reliable, exploration may lead to misperception and failure, regardless of the exploratory time.
  • Learning interventions can promote exploratory actions that enhance the transfer of perceptual-motor skills.
  • It is important that learners are given the opportunity to safely explore and to be guided toward more reliable information for action.
  • Exploration is a continuous process, and the generation of information is dependent on the actions of the individual.



  • Give clients the opportunity to safely develop exploratory behaviour beyond their perceived ability.
  • Decrease direct instructions and give clients the opportunity to explore movement, and the demands required of the task. 
  • Guide them if they are apprehensive or anxious: "have you tried?", or "what would happen if?".
  • Communicate directly: "what do you need to do/know in order to perform..?"


Keep up to date with research relevant to your clinical Pilates practice.

The Calibrate Pilates team translates research into clinically relevant information so that you can build your core practice and improve client outcomes. 

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