This article addresses the functional links between knowledge and performance in human activity. Starting with the evolutionary roots of knowledge and activity, it shows how the combination of adaptive behavior and knowledge storage has formed over various stages of evolution. The cognitive architecture of human actions is discussed against this background, and it is shown how knowledge is integrated into action control. Then, methodological issues in the study of action knowledge are considered, and an experimental method is presented that can be used to assess the structure of action knowledge in long‐term memory. This method is applied in studies on the relation between object knowledge and performance in mechanics and between movement knowledge and performance in high‐performance sportswomen. These studies show how experts’ knowledge systems can be assessed, and how this may contribute to the optimization of human performance. In high‐level experts, these representational frameworks were organized in a highly hierarchical tree‐like structure, were remarkably similar between individuals, and matched well the functional demands of the task. In comparison, the action representations in low‐level performers were organized less hierarchically, were more variable between persons, and were not so well in accordance with functional demands. These results support the hypothesis that voluntary actions are planned, executed, and stored in memory directly by way of representations of their anticipated perceptual effects. The method offers new possibilities to investigate knowledge structures. Based on such results it is possible to improve performance via special training‐techniques. This paper fulfils an identified research need concerning the interaction of knowledge and performance and offers new perspectives for future forms of knowledge management.
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