OBJECTIVE. A common practice in occupational therapy is to have clients choose an object that they prefer to be used during treatment. This practice assumes that a preference for chosen items will hold greater meaning and result in higher quality of movement. Little research has been conducted that specifically addresses the effect that preference has on quality of movement. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to contribute to the knowledge by determining whether preference affects quality of movement.

METHOD. Forty-three healthy right-hand-dominant adult women between the ages of 18 and 60 years in Northwest Ohio engaged in this study. Each participant rank-ordered 15 magazines from most preferred to least preferred. The participant then reached for her most preferred, neutrally preferred, and least preferred magazines.

RESULTS. When participants reached for the neutrally preferred magazines, movement time was significantly slower and movement units were significantly greater (less smooth) than when they reached for a magazine perceived as being the least preferred (p < .017). No differences were found between the three conditions in terms of displacement, peak velocity, or percentage of time to peak velocity, nor between the most preferred and the other two preferences.

CONCLUSION. This study has shown that preference may not be an influential factor when performing simple reaches for magazines. Although there was a difference between the neutrally preferred and least preferred conditions, the goal when reaching during the neutrally preferred condition may have been different (i.e., to glean more information from the magazine cover) than when reaching in the least preferred condition (e.g., to reach for and discard the magazine as quickly as possible). These results reflect the complexity involved in the formation of meaning, of which preference is a part. Further exploration of individual preferences as well as personal goal formation and their impact on success in occupations of daily living is needed.

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