We studied human movement planning in tasks in which subjects selected one of two goals that differed in expected gain. Each goal configuration consisted of a target circle and a partially overlapping penalty circle. Rapid hits into the target region led to a monetary bonus; accidental hits into the penalty region incurred a penalty. The outcomes assigned to target and penalty regions and the spatial arrangement of those regions were varied. Subjects preferred configurations with higher expected gain whether selection involved a rapid pointing movement or a choice by key press. Movements executed to select one of two goal configurations exhibited the same movement dynamics as pointing movements directed at a single configuration, and were executed with the same high efficiency. Our results suggest that humans choose near-optimal strategies when planning their movement, and can base their selection of strategy on a rapid judgment about the expected gain associated with possible movement goals.
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